The Incarnation

John 1:14-18

Today is without doubt the most important universal event on the Christian Calendar. Christians worldwide are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Even unbelievers will celebrate this day as a mere holiday. And that’s how wide spread the day is. And in Ghana, because today is Sunday, we are going to enjoy Monday as a holiday. But in the midst of all the celebrations, there are arguments and debates over whether Jesus was born on 25th December or not. Others have argued Christmas is an adaptation of pagan festivities. All these come up every year when it is Christmas. Articles are written to defend Christmas. Counter arguments are given. 

Though these are  worth addressing, they however don’t take away the essence or the reason for the celebration of Christmas. Jesus was born and lived as a real human being. Christmas therefore is a celebration of a historical event of the birth of Christ. That Jesus was born is a clear teaching of Scripture. 

And so this Christmas  morning, I want us to consider for a title The Incarnation. I will basically address two issues about the incarnation: What Is The Incarnation (that is giving a definition for the Incarnation)  and Why The Incarnation.

What Is The Incarnation?

The opening phrase of the verse 14 captures succinctly the meaning of the word incarnation. “And the Word became flesh.” This is John’s way of pointing to the reality of the birth of Jesus. From the beginning of the series through John, we identified the phrase “the Word” as Jesus Christ. And pointed out that he is God. When John therefore said : “the Word became flesh”, all he is saying is that God became a human being. 

And this is a profound truth of the Christian message. God became man. Jesus is the God-Man. God, the Creator of all things took upon himself human flesh. This is simply what is meant by Incarnation. God becoming man—like you and I. 

He thirsted. He hungered. He felt the tiredness of this body. He felt sorrow. He experienced joy. He got angry. He felt pity and compassion. He showed love. He received love. He felt rejected. He wept. All these are emotions true to all humans. Jesus walked this world as a human being. He experienced every emotion you and I will experience. 

But the Scripture is quick to tell us Jesus was sinless. And that is what distinguished him from all of us. He was a perfect human being:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

The incarnation shows the humility of Jesus. He came to dwell in the womb for 9 months. And was born in the same way all of us came into the world. This is God we are talking about, don’t forget that. 

Christ grew from zygote to foetus to infant to child to adolescent man. It had the same nutritional and environmental needs (Donald Macleod, From Glory to Golgotha)

This is the humility of Jesus. He started his human journey life as a fertilised egg (but of course not the result of the union between a man woman). There is a  theological word for this humility. The word denotes Christ emptying himself or putting aside aspects of his divinity and becoming man. It is called The kenosis. So the incarnation is simply that God  took the form of a human being to become  like us.

Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of herb yet without sin (Westminster Shorter Catechism, 22).

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8).

Why The Incarnation?

The Revelation of God

The first reason for the incarnation is The Revelation of God, that humankind will know God. So Jesus being God, came to show us who God is. It is there. Look at v.18: “No one has ever seen God” This statement points to the essence of who God is. The Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us who God is. It asks the question: “What Is God?” I don’t like this question so I will always ask it my way: “Who Is God?” The answer

God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

You see, God is a Spirit and the Scripture clearly teaches us no one can see God and live. Moses in the wilderness desired to see God’s glory and God answered him no one can see my face and live: Exodus 33:20. Because God is relational and relates with his people, he has, out of his mercy and goodness, removed this impediment of man’s inability to see him. I paint a picture with a distance relationship. Nobody can be in a distance relationship forever. A husband and wife cannot stay in separate places for the rest of their marriages, at a point they have to see one another. 

This is a kind of crude example, but it paints the picture well. Jesus Christ came to show us the reality of God. Jesus coming into the world is God revealing himself to us: “the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” You see here Jesus is revealed to us as God? One may be tempted to think that all these is someone’s imagination to create a character who is both God and man. Like Spider man, Cat woman…There are  indeed a lot of characters out there who are only real on screens but have no real existence. And for the children here, all your cartoon characters are no real characters. It’s only in a cartoon a cat can be stretched to become elongated. It’s only in a cartoon a cat can be flatten out to become a thin layer. After a while, it just shakes itself and gets moving. But that’s not the incarnation. It’s not a fictional character. God came to live among us. This God-man is not a fictional character. He was a real man. 

And John gives us evidence to show Jesus truly became a human being: “He dwelt among us.” This is John giving us something that can be termed as “ eye witness report”. The plural of this sentence tells us there was an actual, physical interaction between the apostles and Jesus. Look also at the phrase: “we have seen his glory…” Simply they saw Jesus. 

John elaborated more on this in his epistle:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:1-3).

There are a lot of people we never met. But the history about them tells us they are real human beings. None of us saw Kwame Nkrumah. None of us saw Yaa Asantewaa. For my American missionary friends, I doubt any of you saw Abraham Lincoln. But the history books tell us they existed. The people who saw and experienced them documented their lives. That’s how the life of Jesus is. The writings of the apostles are eye witnesses report. 

You will notice that John the apostle also points to John the Baptist as another witness for the person of Jesus (v.15). In one of our series, we identified John the Baptist as a trustworthy witness.  This is an essential Christian doctrine. If you don’t believe God came in the flesh in the person of Jesus, then you are not a Christian: “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.” (2John 1:7).

He dwelt among us literally means he pitched his tent among us. You know in the Old Testament, God dwelt among the Israelites in many different forms. The Ark for example showed his presence. We are told they were guided by a pillar of cloud and fire as they moved around. All these was the manifestation of the presence of God. But Jesus Christ, God came to dwell among his creation in a bodily form. That God came to live among humanity is a profound truth of Scripture. It is profound and should give us hope because God knows and identifies with our frailty as humans. 

Reconciliation between God and Humankind

The glory of God and the fulness of God all point to the essence of who God is. He is supreme. He is powerful. He is a mighty God. He is a Sovereign God. But then he is also a God  full of mercy, compassion, loving-kindness. Lamentation tells us the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. They are new every morning (Lamentation 3:23). The Psalms tell us God has not dealt with us according to our iniquities (Psalm 103:10). Jesus Christ brought to us the fullness of God and John points out what this looks like: “grace upon grace” Grace by definition is simply unmerited favour. That is God giving to human beings what they do not deserve. God in Christ has extended his unmerited favour to humankind. We are naturally a people undeserving of anything from God. We are separated from God by sin. But in Christ, we are reconciled to God. We receive the peace of God. We receive reconciliation through the forgiveness of sin. The blessings of a union and relationship with God. 

Grace upon grace speaks of the abundant nature of what God has done for us in Christ. It’s like a full bucket of water and yet the tap is not closed. The water keeps pouring. God continually makes his grace available to us: “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6).  This is the essence of Christmas: Enemies of God are reconciled to him on Christmas

Christ Ushers In A New Covenant

What do we have to do to receive this blessings? Nothing. There is nothing you can do by yourself that will earn the favour of God over your life. Everything you need to do has been done by Jesus. Look at the comparison that is done between law and grace in v.17. This is instructive. This points us to the fact that Christ brought a new way by which we will receive grace. The law brought through Moses emphasis upon work. It speaks about what you are to do. It speaks about your good works. But grace only asks you to believe on the works of another.

The incarnation ushers in the New Covenant God promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34. Christ has instituted a new way to the Father and it is by faith, not our works

Christmas without Christ is an empty celebration. 



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