Was Jesus just a man? You might be surprised by the answer.
Jesus was just a guy.
Jesus was just a guy who, like many others in the crowds around the Jordan river in first century Palestine, heard the preaching of John, calling them to baptism for repentance of sins. Like many others, Jesus responded. He waded into the waters and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And there he had an incredible, profound, and personal experience of God. When he was coming up out of the water staring up at the sky, he saw the skies above him open up and God's Spirit descend on him, and he heard the voice of God speak directly to him, saying:
You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.
That is an amazing statement. This man Jesus heard God speak personally to him, saying you're my child, I love you, you are beloved to me, and I am pleased with you.
And like many prophets of Israel before him, this man Jesus was filled with the power of God's Spirit. He went out into the wilderness to commune with the God who had just spoken to him. There in the wilderness, he experienced the abundance of this Dad-God, providing everything he needed in the wilderness. No food, no shelter, no others were necessary. He received everything he needed from the Father and not even the Devil could tempt him away from that new understanding of who God is.
That man Jesus returned from the wilderness to share the message he heard from God with others: that God is a loving, providing Father. You don't need to worry about anything, because God is in control of everything, and the God who created and owns the whole world loves you. If God provides for little birds, how much more so for you? Filled with God's Spirit, he healed, he freed people from oppressive spirits, he hung out with those looked down on by religious elites, he welcomed everyone, and wandered around his country teaching the poor and the seeking. He taught against the ways he believed his own religion had gone wrong. His way of unrelenting servant love enraged the religious and political leaders whose power and ambition was threatened by that message of love. Ultimately that way of love condemned him unjustly in a sham trial and he was crucified by the Romans.
Jesus was just another guy unjustly killed by the Roman Empire.
And none of that is in contradiction with the statement of faith that Jesus is the Eternal Son, the Second Person of the Triune God. Christians believe that Jesus was both 100% a human man, like us in every way, as well as 100% God. This mystery of faith is the Incarnation, and you can learn more about what's called the Hypostatic Union if you want to go deeper.
On the feast we celebrate called the Baptism of our Lord, which this year is the first Sunday after Christmas, we remember that Jesus was just a man who responded to John's call to be baptized in the Jordan. Everything that happened afterward, his total submission to God's will even to the point of death, transparently revealed God to us in a completely new way and in a way that could never happen again. In the human man Jesus, God came to us, God was revealed to us, and the way of God's love lived out for us. And in his resurrection from the dead, that way of new life and love was opened to us.
Now we are baptized as well, not into the same baptism, not into the baptism of John, but into the Spirit of the Risen Lord Jesus and his resurrection. We are baptized in his name, the name of the Triune God revealed to us in the life of Jesus: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The relationship Jesus experienced of love between Father and Son, we are invited into by being invited into him. And so this Epiphany season, as we celebrate the revelation of who God is in the face of the man Jesus, we also remember and celebrate that we are baptized into his Body, made one with him, and can boldly pray to God as our Father also. We can claim that statement made to Jesus by his Father as our own: we are God's children, we are beloved by him, he is pleased with us.
May his motherly and fatherly love be with us all this Epiphany season and all year long.