The Wonder of The Incarnation ~ 20091213 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

12/13/09 - the wonder of the incarnation

We've looked in the last few weeks at who Jesus claimed to be; Jesus claimed to be the eternal all glorious pre-existent self existent one, sent from the Father, equal to and one with his Father and worthy of the same honor as the Father, in and of himself truly and fully God.

We looked at Jesus the man, as the one whose beauty is not in his outward appearance, but a beauty defined by character - full of grace and truth. His kingdom is an upside-down kingdom - he is a king come not to be served but to serve, not to have his faithful subjects give their lives to protect him, but to give his own life a ransom for rebellious subjects. Jesus' wisdom is upside-down; he reveals his wisdom to those who are acutely aware of their helplessness, dependance and need, and hides his wisdom from those who consider themselves wise and understanding. Jesus is the one who accurately portrays the Father to us, he is the one who is the image of the invisible God. He, by his actions and attitudes, by his joys and sorrows, by his very character and nature reveals to us what his Father is like.

Today I'd like to focus our attention on the wonder of the incarnation. Incarnation is a word that means taking on human nature and form. We use this word to refer to what happened at the birth of Christ, when God took on flesh. Matthew, citing Isaiah, says

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). [Isaiah 7:14]

Jesus is God. But this is not a God that is distant, aloof, far removed from our situation. Not a God looking down his nose at our despicable situation. This Jesus is no less than God - very God of very God, but he is God with us - God come along side us; God who gets his feet wet and hands dirty. John says 'the Word became flesh and dwelt among us' [Jn.1:14]. The word who was with God in the beginning, who was himself God, became flesh. God who is spirit became an embryo inside the womb of a young girl. God, who is infinite and eternal, entered history at a moment in time. God, who is self-existent and omnipotent, became dependent on the nourishment and care of his mother. The Word, who spoke stars into existence, had to learn to talk. This is the most staggering truth of Christianity, the truth that sets it apart from all other religions. God the Son, without ceasing to be God, became a human being. This morning we will look at some texts that help us to grapple with this most foundational truth about Jesus – God with us.

We'll start with the conception of Jesus.

Luke 1:30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God.

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. ...20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

There was nothing ordinary or normal about the conception of Jesus. Jesus was born to a virgin. He had no biological human father. It was an event surrounded by angelic communication; it took an angel to convince Joseph that Mary's unbelievable story was true, and Mary was, in fact, a virgin. The embryo growing inside her was in fact the Son of God.

The conception of Jesus was utterly unique in all of history. But the birth of Jesus was strikingly unimpressive. He was born to parents that were not free. They were Jews under Roman occupation. They were told to report to their city of birth to register for purposes of taxation. There was no medical exemption. Mary had to go, so Jesus was born on the road, away from all that was familiar. They were not invited into the castle of Herod in Bethlehem, they were put up in a stable because there was no room for them in the inn. The animal's feed box served as a makeshift crib. This is the red carpet we rolled out to welcome the Son of God.

But this was no accident, no unfortunate set of circumstances outside of God's control. This was by design. The hand of God moved the Roman emperor to demand a census at just the right time to get Joseph to his city of birth so that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem as prophesied hundreds of years earlier [Micah 5:2]. And it was the hand of God that arranged for the inn to be full so that his Son would be born in a barn.

Let's look at what Paul says about the incarnation:

Philippians 2:5-11 ...6 who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross...

Jesus was in the form of God. He was equal with God, He was in fact, God. But in the incarnation, he didn't cling to his status as God but took an additional form - the form of a servant. Jesus, who was God from all eternity, in addition to being really and truly God, became really and truly human. God was born in the likeness of men. Immanuel; God with us. The incarnation is the most profound mystery of the universe. God the creator became part of his creation. God, who is spirit, became touchable in the arms of a young girl.

As we have seen, Jesus made ridiculous claims, claims to be the pre-existent, self existent one with the power to forgive sins, power to control nature and power to command twelve legions of angels to do his bidding (Mt.26:53), equal to and one with his Father, and yet he was sleeping in the boat because he was tired. His young mother wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in the animal's feed box. He learned to crawl and walk. He was the Alpha and Omega, and he had to be taught the alphabet.

It says he emptied himself, or he made himself nothing. Some have taught that Jesus emptied himself of some of the characteristics of deity, such as omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. But this does not fit the biblical data. Jesus claimed omnipresence when he said

John 1:48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Matthew 28:20 ... And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus demonstrated his omniscience:

Mark 2:8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts?

John 2:24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

John 6:64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)

John 16:30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.”

Jesus displayed omnipotence:

Mark 4:39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “ Peace! Be still !” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

John 6:19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

If Jesus had temporarily given up some of his divine attributes, he would have become less than God. Jesus in becoming man did not set aside part of his deity. While Jesus was in the womb of Mary, he was still upholding the universe by the word of his power. When he was asleep in the manger, he was at that very moment everywhere present; heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you [1Ki.8:27].

What Paul means when he says that 'he emptied himself' or 'made himself nothing' is clear from the context. His innate equality with the Father was not something he clung to; rather he humbled himself. Being God and worthy of all worship, he took on a lowly status and position, allowing himself to be despised, rejected, mistreated; ultimately allowing himself to be crucified.

Paul puts it this way in:

2 Corinthians 8:9 for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

In Jesus, we see the second person of the trinity, possessing the divine nature from all eternity, taking on an additional nature - a human nature. The historic christian understanding of Jesus is that he is one person with two natures. Jesus possesses both a divine and human nature. He is fully God and fully man. These natures do not become confused or mixed to create some half God half man hybrid that is neither fully God nor truly man. His divine and human natures remain distinct, but are united in the one person of Jesus Christ.

For Jesus to be a mediator between God and man, he must be both fully God and fully man in order to represent both sides faithfully.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

For Jesus to be our substitute and redeem us, he had to be a man.

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

For Jesus to make us righteous by his perfect obedience, that obedience had to be performed by a man.

Romans 5:19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

For Jesus to be able to experience death, conquer the devil and free the captives, he had to be flesh and blood:

Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

For Jesus death to be sufficient to cover the sins of all mankind, Jesus had to be fully God.

1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Fully God and fully man united in one person forever. John lays out the glory of the incarnation this way:

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

The Word, who was with God and who was God became flesh and dwelt among us. He pitched his tent among us. He became one of us. John could have said that the Word took a body or the Word became human. Instead he uses the term 'flesh', a blunt, almost crude way to refer to human nature. God the Son, second person of the trinity, became carnal. There was nothing artificial about the humanity of Jesus. The author of Hebrews says:

Hebrews 4:14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 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.

Look back at John 1.

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

That is the mystery of the incarnation. But there is another mystery here. Look up to verse 9

John 1:9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

This mystery is also great. True light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world. The word made flesh. God with us. The greatest violation of the laws of nature that ever was or ever will be. He was in the world, and the world was made through him. And here is the staggering part. 'Yet the world did not know him.' We did not recognize our creator. But it gets more specific than that: 'He came to his own' He came to the people that he had chosen, that he had worked with, that he had spoken to, that he had revealed himself to, and his own people did not receive him. This is deeper than not knowing him. They recognized him and rejected him.

That is the story of Christmas. God himself, the eternal self-existent uncreated creator of all things entered history and became flesh – was born into this world as a man in order to rescue us from sin and death and hell. And he is met with indifference. Apathy. A shrug of the shoulders. Too busy to take notice. More important things to attend to. His own people did not receive him. God in the flesh and we walk away unchanged. O let it not be so among us. Let us receive our King! Let us welcome him with white hot passionate worship! Stand in awe and wonder at the marvel of the incarnation! Stand stunned with Charles Wesley who sang:

Died He for me, who caused His pain— For me, who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? [And Can it Be? Charles Wesley, 1738]

Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, [Isaac Watts, 1719]