The Incarnation

The Incarnation

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Sona] from the Father, full of grace and truth.” —John 1:14, ESV

The statement in John 1:14 that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” is really the Christmas story pressed into a nutshell. This is the Main Event—Jesus, the eternal Word, became a human being and lived among us in obedience to the Father’s eternal, redemptive plan.

We as Christians know this. We tell this to our children every year. But we need to remember that it’s still a profound mystery—and one worth diving into. As Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:16, “Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ was revealed in a human body” (NLT). Let’s crack open that mystery a bit and look at three things revealed in John 1:14: Jesus’ identity, activity and humanity.

First is Jesus’ identity: John here calls Him “the Word.” That’s a rather impersonal way to describe somebody, isn’t it? So why did John do it? Where did the term the Word come from, and why is it important?

It was actually a common first-century concept, especially among the Jews. In Hebrew and Aramaic (the languages of the Old Testament), the Word is the term memrah, which simply means the self-expression of God to people. Just like an author would choose words to write in a book or on a scroll, so the memrah is the self-expression of God to humanity.

On the other hand, the Greek (the language of the New Testament) term for Word is logos, the ordering principle or reason behind the universe. Greeks used the term as the reason there is predictability in the world—stars moving in patterns and seasons coming and going. So, in this one word, John was describing Jesus as both the rational mind that rules the universe and the self-expression of God, the ultimate form of communication.

God could have communicated by sending us a letter. And He did that, in effect; that’s what the Bible is. He also could have sent us field representatives that would tell us about Him. And He did that when He sent the prophets. God could have communicated by an infomercial, something that would dramatically point to Him. And He did that, too, through the miracles of both the Old and New Testaments.

But the most effective and personal way to communicate is to be there yourself. And God did that through Jesus Christ, the Word.

That leads us to the second point, which is Jesus’ activity: He became flesh and dwelt among us. As Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). The wonder of Christmas is that God came down from Heaven, but the mission of Christmas was that Jesus came to do His Father’s will. And God’s will was twofold in this sense: first, that Jesus would become the “bread of life” (John 6:48), broken to pay the price for mankind’s sin and reunite us with God; and second, that Jesus would give us an example to follow, a model of submission and obedience to God. Being God, He didn’t need to do these things Himself, but He wanted to show us their importance in our walk with Him.

We see this model over and over again. Jesus let John baptize Him—not because Jesus needed a ritual cleansing but so that He could “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15), identifying with the sinners He came to save. Afterward, He fasted in the wilderness for 40 days, deliberately weakening His physical body so He could demonstrate the power of God’s Word to deliver us from temptation (Matthew 4:1-11).

Furthermore, Jesus’ life and ministry underscored the reliability of God’s Word, as He so often did exactly what was required in order to fulfill prophetic Scripture (Matthew 21:4)—some 10 times in the Book of Matthew alone! His obedience set the tone for our own. Once we’re saved, we respond in gratitude for our new relationship with God in Christ: “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister” (Matthew 12:50). In order to accomplish all this, however, God had to become one of us.

Finally, we consider Jesus’ humanity. What did He become? Flesh. The Being who is larger than the universe and who called it into existence was confined to the womb of a young woman and then born as a baby. It is staggering. I hope it continually blows your mind—it was meant to.

But this begs the question that must be answered every Christmas: Why did God have to become flesh? Why not an angel or something else? There are two reasons: redemption and representation.

First, redemption. There came a time when the Father said to the Son, “The only way these sinful beings can find peace with Me and have their sins forgiven is by a sacrifice,” and He sent the Son into the world to die. That’s the truth we underscore every Christmas, isn’t it? The purpose of Jesus’ birth was His death. The cross casts its dark shadow even on the manger (see Hebrews 2:9, 14).

And when Jesus died on the cross, as a perfect, sinless sacrifice, God’s wrath was satisfied so that He could grant salvation to anyone who simply trusts Christ for salvation. He opened the door for everyone. It was as if on the cross, Jesus took hold of the hand of the Father in Heaven and the hand of humanity here on earth and brought the two together by His sacrifice. “God … reconciled us to himself through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:18, NIV).

The second reason Jesus became flesh was because of representation. Jesus became a man and experienced the trials, temptations and sufferings common to people so that when you pray to Him, He can say, “I know what that feels like. I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there.” He’s the perfect representative of humanity (see Hebrews 4:15-16).

It’s Christmas in a nutshell: the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Too often our tendency is to keep this truth merely theological. If you want to really celebrate Christmas, then let this truth become incarnational in your life. Let the eternal Word penetrate your everyday life—at home, at school or on the job. How do you do that? By being like Christ in everyday life. When He is seen in you, then Christmas is really being celebrated.  ©2017 Skip Heitzig

Skip Heitzig is founder and senior pastor of Calvary of Albuquerque.

The Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. The Bible verses marked NLT are taken by permission from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996 Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Ill.

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