If asked what it means to be a man, many would naturally point to the MMA fighter, to one of the grizzly members of the show “Deadliest Catch” or to some extraordinarily gifted athlete. Others would unhesitatingly appeal to the studious and successful man–the doctor, the lawyer, the CEO or the engineer. The more machismo, the more man. The more money, the more mature. Right? However, when we turn to the Scriptures, the picture that God has given us about what it means to be a man is entirely different and far more dynamic than that which most of us would expect. The picture that God gives us of the measure of a man is that of Jesus–with all of His sinless human perfection, united to the Divine nature of the Son of God. What we discover when we look at Jesus in the pages of Scripture helps us understand, and appropriate into our own lives, the measure of a man:
A man of truth. Jesus is, first and foremost, a man of truth. As God the Son, He is the only who could rightly say, “I am the Truth.” He is the true revelation of the true and living God–namely, God manifest in the flesh. However, as man, He is the truth-loving second Adam. As a man, Jesus learned the Scriptures. If there is one thing that is evident about Christ it is that He was Scripture-saturated. At every point in the Gospel-narratives, Jesus appealed to the Scriptures, prayed the Scriptures, preached the Scriptures, taught the Scriptures and confronted and corrected with the Scriptures. He not only knew what the Bible said, He had a perfect understanding of what every part of it meant. He knew that all of the Scriptures spoke of Him (Luke 4:16-21) and that it was written to Him (see this and this). He knew that it was the perfect revelation of God’s will for man. Jesus knew that man needed the word of God for redemption, reconciliation and restoration. If we are to be men, we must be men of truth. The more truth-loving, the more maturity in manhood. We become truth-loving, truth-propagating and truth-defending men by fixing our eyes on the Savior. The more we search the Scriptures in order to come to Him, the more we call on Him and the more we meditate on all that we have in Him, the more we will become men of truth. Charles Spurgeon famously noted the way in which John Bunynan had learned this principle from the Savior. “His blood,” wrote Spurgeon, “is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God. I commend his example to you, beloved.”
A man of love. It is almost unnecessary to say that Jesus is a man of love. He was in the world because of His great love for His Father and those who the Father had chosen in Him before the foundation of the world and sent Him to redeem. There has only been one man who loved the Lord His God with all of His heart, mind, soul and strength and perfectly loved His neighbor as Himself. He was the perfect model of love. He is what it looks like for the infinitely loving God to be manifest in the flesh. When I was a young Christian, my best friend took me to 1 Corinthians 13 and started to read it. Instead of reading “Love is patient, love is kind…,” he replaced the word “love” with the word “Jesus.” “Jesus is patient and kind; Jesus does not envy or boast; Jesus is not arrogant or rude. Jesus does not insist on His own way; Jesus is not irritable or resentful; Jesus does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Jesus lasts forever” (1 Cor. 13:4-7). We too must learn from our Redeemer what it is to be loving men in the world.
A man of zeal and resolve. It is possible for us to misunderstand what it means that Jesus is a man of love. What it does not mean is that He was dispassionate, non-reactive, tolerant of evil and complacent. The Jesus of Scripture made a whip of chords with which to drive money changers out of the Temple, overthrowing tables out of zeal for His Father’s house. Jesus’ zeal and resoluteness pressed Him forward in accomplishing the work of redemption. As Jesus marched to the cross, Luke explained His zeal and resoluteness in the following way: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). The Spirit of Christ had prophetically foretold this zeal and resoluteness when He spoke of Himself as the Suffering Servant so many hundreds of years before coming into the world: “But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame” (Is. 50:7). Robert Law summed up the significance of the zeal and resoluteness of Jesus when he wrote:
We think of Him, and delight to think of Him, as the embodiment of all gentle, passive virtues. “He is led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth.” Yes, but how are we taught here that the submissiveness of Jesus was the yielding, not of weakness but of strength; that all this passive side of His nature was balanced and completed by His uniting with it, in equal perfection, all those qualities and dispositions that form the heroic type of character— intrepid courage, unwavering resolution, the fortitude which shrinks from no ordeal, bends to no opposition, but braves and overcomes all that stands between it and its purpose?…When we see Jesus setting His face to go to Jerusalem, striding on to the cross as men march to the consummation of their dearest hopes or struggle upward to the summit of their most cherished ambitions, we feel and know that here courage, fortitude, strength of will have reached the absolute limit of possibility, that such words need an expanded meaning to cover the case. If we would be men indeed, we must learn of Christ.1
A man of gentleness. As it is possible for us to misunderstand the love of Jesus as being something dispassionate, so too may we misunderstand the zeal of Jesus as being something harsh. The one characteristic that Jesus ever highlighted about Himself was His gentleness. When He called men to come to Himself in order to find rest for the soul, He said, “I am gentle and lowly in heart.” The gentleness of Jesus is one of the greatest measures of a man. It was this gentleness that attracted wounded and burdened sinner to Him. The gentleness of Jesus lay behind the following truth about the Savior: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench” (Is. 42:3; Matt. 12:20). When we recognize that we have been the recipients of the gentleness of Jesus, we will long to exhibit the gentleness of Jesus in our own lives. When we realize that gentleness is part of the measure of a man, our prayer will be the same as that of Charles Wesley:
Loving Jesus, gentle Lamb,
In Thy gracious hands I am;
Make me, Savior, what Thou art,
Live Thyself within my heart.
A man of devotion. Jesus was deeply devoted to His Father. He was supremely a man of devotion to the worship, will an work of His Father. When he was a boy, He was in the Temple–asking questions and astonishing the teachers with His answers. Add to the fact that His life was a life of devotion to knowing the Scriptures, the fact that his entire life was a life of prayer. He often withdrew and prayed all night. When He entered into His sufferings He did so in reliance upon His Father and in acknowledgment of the will of His Father. Jesus’ “not My will but Your’s be done” in the Garden shows His perfect and unswerving devotion to His Father. His ‘Father, forgive them” and “Father into Your Hands I commit My Spirit” on the cross reveal that the Savior’s devotion to His Father was a devotion to the very end. William Blaikie summarized the significance of Jesus’ devotion to His Father’s will and work–“from the temple to the cross”–when he wrote:
We see the process of consecration continued from first to last, from the temple to the cross, we see the grace steadily ripening, till his life is closed in with the glorious utterance, “I have finished the work which you gave Me to do.”
And surely this self- consecration of Jesus is the model for His followers. From this example and fountain has come all the grace that has at any time made noble lives and blessed service in the Christian Church. All that is glorious in the devotion of martyrs and missionaries, or in the lives of those who, in hospitals, ragged-schools, and filthy haunts of vice, have given themselves with gentle and patient love to seek and to save the lost, has had its inspiration here. The family of Jesus has no more conspicuous mark than this: it is the prominent feature of the many brethren who have been predestinated to be conformed to the image of the firstborn.
The devotion of Jesus to His Father’s worship, will and work is one of the most significant marks of the measure of man. If we are to become the kind of men that God wants us to be, we must become men of deep devotion to the Father’s worship, will and work.
There are many other characteristics that we see in Christ that inform us of the measure of a man. There is the compassion, anger, joy, wonder, sorrow, boldness and silence of Christ. Yet, all of these emotions or characteristics flow from the overarching categories above. Such a man was necessary to be the Savior of men. Such a man was necessary to be the second Adam–send into the world–to undo all that Adam did and to do all that Adam failed to do. The Mediator is the measure of a man (1 Tim. 2:5). Our Savior has redeemed us from the guilt and corruption of sin, from the wrath and curse of God and from the power of the world, the flesh and the devil; but, He has also redeemed us to restore in us the image of God (Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24). May we always learn to measure manhood by the measurement of the Savior.
1. Robert Law The Emotions of Jesus (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1915) pp. 137-139
2. William Blaikie Glimpses of the Inner Life of Our Lord (London: Hodder and Stroughton, 1876) pp. 26-27