The Wonder of The Incarnation ~ 20091213 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
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
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.
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:
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
Jesus demonstrated his omniscience:
Jesus displayed omnipotence:
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:
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.
For Jesus to be our substitute and redeem us, he had to be a man.
For Jesus to make us righteous by his perfect obedience, that obedience had to be performed by a man.
For Jesus to be able to experience death, conquer the devil and free the captives, he had to be flesh and blood:
For Jesus death to be sufficient to cover the sins of all mankind, Jesus had to be fully God.
Fully God and fully man united in one person forever. John lays out the glory of the incarnation this way:
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:
Look back at John 1.
That is the mystery of the incarnation. But there is another mystery here. Look up to verse 9
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: