Many people today deny the deity of Jesus Christ. In historical theology, this is known as the heresy of “Arianism,” named after the 3rd century elder Arius. But did you know there’s another heresy that attacks Christ’s nature? It’s called Docetism, and it was already cropping up by the end of the first century.
The label “Docetism” comes from the Greek word dokeo, meaning to “seem” or “appear.” This heresy teaches that Christ was fully God, but that He only appeared to be human. He was really just a phantom, a ghost, a spirit . He was not God in flesh. Docetists felt it was impossible for God to have a Son, and felt that having a material body would somehow defile God’s nature.
The Apostle John vigorously opposed this doctrine in his letters to the churches. In 1 John 4:2, he writes, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Chrsit has come in the flesh is from God.” His defense against Docetism even shows up in his Gospel, as we learned together on Sunday. When studying John 19:31-42, we made two observations that show the genuine humanity of Jesus Christ:
- Jesus’ Body is Pierced (John 19:31-37). In contrast to the two thieves, Jesus’ bones are not broken. He has already given up His spirit before the soldiers come to Him. But just to ensure He is dead, a soldier pierces His body with a spear, causing blood and water to flow out. John Himself witnessed these things firsthand (John 19:35) and tells us they all came to pass to fulfill the Scriptures (vv. 36-37; cf. Ps. 34:20; Ex. 12:46; Num. 9:12; Zech. 12:10).
- Jesus’ Body is Buried (John 19:38-42). Two unexpected people arrive on the scene in verse 38. Joseph and Nicodemus, Pharisees who followed Jesus in secret, get permission from Pilate to remove the body and give it a proper burial. Pilate agrees, which is itself remarkable. They take special care of His body, removing it from the cross and placing it in a newly hewn tomb before sundown.
Questions for thought and discussion:
- What are the consequences of rejecting Christ as fully Man?
- How could we use John 19:31-42 to refute Docetism?
- What does John 1:14 tell us about Christ’s nature?
- Have you believed in the testimony of John and the saving work of Jesus? (John 19:35)
- Do you regularly thank Jesus for taking on human flesh, becoming like His creation in order to become our substitute?
- Why was Joseph a secret disciple of Jesus? (John 19:38)
- Have you ever been afraid to share your faith? What can we learn from Joseph’s example in this passage? (cf. Mark 15:43)
Sunday’s sermon will be uploaded to our podcast site soon and available for free download.