The Incarnation of Jesus Christ
Some would argue that the five most important words ever written or read are found in John 1:14, “and the Word became flesh”. We know from John 1:1-13 the true identity of the Word is the second person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ. He took upon Himself flesh – that is, human nature. He became what He was not, in order that we could become what we could never be apart from Him. This is the ultimate step of God’s offensive to restore and heal this broken planet and the broken people who dwell upon it. The incarnation reveals the cosmic (holistic) nature of redemption and affirms the essential goodness of creation (Genesis 1). God loves the created order as well has His creatures. His intention for redemption is not limited to “saved souls” but extends to the entire cosmos. The new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21-22) will be creation brought to its ultimate fullness with God in the midst. Another way to say it is the garden (Eden) will become a city (The New Jerusalem). God so loved the world (John 3:16) includes the creation too. There are three reasons why these are the five most important words you will ever hear or read.
First, there is the fact or reality of the incarnation. Christmas is the celebration of the second person of the Trinity taking upon Himself our humanity. He became the God/Man. Imagine it, the Creator becomes the creature, the King upon the throne of the universe becomes a helpless baby born in a feeding trough in a cattle stall. He left the place of bliss and glory to come to the place of darkness, this gory place called earth.
Incarnation means the enfleshment of the second Person of the Trinity. It was a stupendous movement bigger than the creation of the universe by which God became man. The very fact that the infinite One should have come down into finite creaturely conditions by which He was limited (at least to some degree) surely constitutes a condescension that is staggering. It was as the Westminster Larger Catechism says a “humiliation in itself without regard to the fallenness of the nature He took”. Question 47 in the Larger Catechism: How did Christ humble Himself in conception and birth? Answer: Christ humbled Himself in His conception and birth, in that, being from all eternity the Son of God, in the bosom of the Father, He was pleased in the fullness of time to become the son of man, made of a woman of low estate, and to be born of her, with divers circumstances of more ordinary abasement. C.S. Lewis draws the analogy somewhere of man becoming a slug to show us the greatness of the gap which the second Person of the Trinity overleaped when He became a man.
The Word became flesh. The Greek word for became is “ginomai” and denotes a person or thing that changes its property or enters a new condition. He becomes something He was not before and that something is flesh. He participated in man’s creaturely existence in its weaknesses and limitations (cf. Philippians 2:5-8). He is the only begotten. He is unique and the only one of His kind. To recap, the incarnation is the truth that the second person of the Godhead left glory and became what from eternity He had never been before, united to the human nature of Jesus. Think about that – and worship!
The second reason why these are the five most important words is their imagery. “And the Word became flesh” is filled with Old Testament imagery. He tabernacled, He pitched His tent among men and revealed His glory. God’s covenant commitment to dwell in the midst of His people and bless, protect and provide for them is now fulfilled. The tabernacle of the Old Testament is a 3-D visual aid enabling us to see how a holy God can dwell with sinful people. People could see the “shekinah,” the glory of God, His manifest presence residing in the Holy of Holies. Only through sacrifice could this God be approached. Now the “shekinah,” the glory of God, dwells fully in a Person and we beheld it. We were witnesses to His glory (1 John 1:1-3). The glory of God tabernacling among men. Think about that – and worship!
The third reason is the concept of glory. “Doxa” denotes the splendor of His majesty or the overwhelming weightiness (kabod) of His presence, the divine radiance. The glory of the incarnate One is His goodness. Moses’ prayer “show me Your glory” has been answered. God has caused His goodness to pass by. He is full of grace and truth, “chesed” and “emet”. Jesus is full of truth which indicates firmness, reliability, steadfastness, stability and trustworthiness. Jesus is full of grace which is God’s steadfast, loyal, covenant, committed love for His people. The glory of God is the revelation of His heart toward His people in His faithfulness to them and His passion and zeal to do them good. His glory is revealed in a unique way. It is not flamboyant or flashy. It was not received from men. It is not by a masterful exercise of power to control the world’s affairs, but by the humble obedience of a Son, even to the point of death and abandonment that glorifies the Father. The cross reveals His glory as nothing else can. We, like the apostle Paul, can say “but God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). Think about this – and worship this Christmas. I know I will.
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