John 1:14. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
There are lots of things in Christianity that are really hard to grasp. Once you get past seeing Christianity as just another moral code or “religion,” and you begin to ask how the salvation of God actually takes place, it’s then that you begin to enter into these difficult truths that really separate the gospel from all other faiths. And here is one of those truths – the Word became flesh.
This is possibly the most controversial thing John could have possibly written into his gospel’s prologue. If he had an audience up until verse 14, he just lost them all. Greeks and Jews both agreed that the flesh was corrupt, bad, base, unclean, impure, and something to escape. Neither the Greek “Logos” nor the Jewish “Word” would ever become flesh. Both Greeks and Jews believed that the whole point of life was to escape this physical earth and the flesh that enslaves us, and live on a purely spiritual plane.
But then John comes along and says that the Word, God himself, doesn’t want us to escape the flesh, and actually, he became flesh like us in order to share that experience with us, and redeem it for us forever. We call this the incarnation, and it truly is almost unbelievable. He who is fully God became fully human. The second person of the Trinity, the eternal Son, the Word, did not “put on flesh.” He did not enter into or possess an already existing body. Nor did a person in the flesh achieve god-like status, putting on divinity. Other religions have proposed both of these. But our God did something no other God has ever done. The 100% God became 100% human.
“In God’s incarnation, in the human Jesus of Nazareth, the Absolute became relative, the Almighty – a baby, the Ancient of Days – nowadays, the Divine – human, the Eternal – temporal, the Immortal – mortal, The Infinite – finite. The believing human race is deeply grateful for this Immense Descent.”Frederick Bruner
This is the great challenge of Christianity – to see God as a person, and in particular, this person, Jesus.
But why? Why would God do this? Why would he stoop so low?
Because he loves us and he wants to dwell among us.
Jesus entered our family so that we might enter his family.
Jesus moved into our neighborhood so that we might move into his.
Jesus became human so that we might become truly human (Augustine).
Jesus became what we are so that we might become what he is.
Jesus took on humanity in order to be our atoning sacrifice for our sin.
Jesus took on our suffering in order to be our faithful high priest.
Jesus became known so that we might truly know God, and be known by God.
Jesus became the creation in order to restore all creation.
Jesus became poor that we might become rich.
Jesus became the image of God so that we might be restored image bearers.
Jesus became cursed for us that we might be blessed in him.
Jesus became sin so that we might become his righteousness.
The incarnation is the central event of God’s salvation plan. Without the incarnation there is no redemption, no atonement, no resurrection, no eternal life for humanity. Christ’s union with us makes our union with him possible. Before we could ever be joined to Christ, he had to first be joined to us. God now has a body. He has a soul. It was a human that died on the cross. It was a human that was raised. It is a human that is seated on the throne. The salvation of Jesus from death, and the glorification of Jesus in resurrection life, is what makes possible your own resurrection and glorification. Now, because the Word became flesh, we can experience the end of our salvation – becoming the very children of God.
John 1:12. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
“To live is Christ” is possible because the Word became flesh. Now it is this great paradox of the incarnation – majesty becoming mediocre, glory becoming grace, the sovereign becoming the slave, the high and exalted being humbled – that is our life’s course. Living sacrificially as the Word becomes flesh in every act of love of his church.
What does the incarnation mean to you?
You in Christ
You can be joined to Jesus because Jesus was first joined to humanity. How does this help you embrace Christ’s total, unconditional love for us?
Christ in you
How can you allow Christ to love through you today?
Playlist: Songs of the incarnation.