Christians have much to celebrate when it comes to God and Christianity. But there are two events that have taken place in Christianity that take the cake. Those events are the incarnation; and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without the incarnation there is no death and resurrection, because there is no Jesus Christ. The incarnation speaks to the depth that God was willing to bow that He might have a people that are redeemed from lawlessness and who fully belong to Him. In this session I will discuss what the incarnation is and just how human and how divine Jesus is. The incarnation of Jesus Christ isn’t something that you want to quickly glance at, but something that you peer into, explore and ponder so that you can start to gain an understanding of the humility of God.
What Is The Incarnation?
Many of us overlook the beauty of the incarnation as simply a special baby being born to young parents with some animals. I talked with a Pastor around Christmas time about the incarnation and asked him what he was preaching for his Christmas series/sermon. His response to me was “I am taking a different look on the birth of Jesus. I’m not just doing that little Baby in the manger thing; I am adding some more power and life to the story by using some scriptures from some of Paul’s letters.” This news was stunning and deeply saddening. I thought to myself, is there anything else to preach about other than that little Baby, which was God, coming in the flesh to visit His creation that had rejected Him time and time again? How could you possibly add to the incarnation of Jesus Christ? It needs nothing else, nothing new and nothing catchy. God becoming a Man, being born to a young teenage mom is far more than the combined human race and thousands of years could ever begin to scratch the surface of. This is a depth similar to that of the ocean; beyond our understanding.
The word incarnation literally means “coming in the flesh”, or that God actually took on meat. John 1:14 says;
“And the Word became flesh (carne) and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.”
Within the Doctrine of the incarnation, there is a lot of controversy. Many theologians want to argue that Jesus was either fully God or fully human but not both. We will discuss this a little later on as we look at the humanity of Jesus and the divinity of Jesus.
To Christians, incarnation means that God became a Man, nothing more and nothing less. It doesn’t mean that Man became a God or that God lost His ability to be God when He took on the form of a Man. It rather means that God became a Man; He was God also joined with humanity. Theologians, in history, and even some today have said that when Jesus became a Man that He lost His ability to be God. As I have already said, this is a false statement. Just because God became a Man, doesn’t mean that God lost His ability to be God. He was still fully God when He became a Man. Jesus’ transition to humanity wasn’t a temporary one, but rather an eternal one. Jesus, though He is now in a resurrected body, will forever be in a human body. When He became a Man, it wasn’t for a moment but for eternity. He will never go back.
In 451 A.D. a council met and decreed that Jesus Christ was one person with two natures, divinity and humanity. This is heaven and earth dwelling together in perfect harmony. Jesus Christ is actually the combination of two names. Jesus being His earthly name which is derived from the Hebrew name Joshua and Christ being His heavenly name. Christ means anointed or anointed One or the anointed Messiah. One of the early Church fathers, Augustine, said that “Christ added to what He was not, but He didn’t lose what He was.”
The incarnation tells us two things. Firstly, that God is like us and secondly, that He is totally unlike us. When we look into the incarnation we see a God who was exalted so high but bowed so low to bring a people who were so far, so close. God is the humble King who laid aside His position and dignity to live life like a human in order to reach people from a place of understanding. Jesus has suffered the great separation from His Father so that those who put their trust in Him, through the Holy Spirit, never have to be separated from God, not even for even a moment. We must not overlook the depth to which Jesus was willing to go to make us, His own special people, Christians.
There are people alive on the earth today who have endured much to show love to others, but no one has laid down as much as Jesus did in heaven to live like a Man, be treated with evil, and then to suffer at the hands of Your own creation. This deserves songs of worship, joy and celebration as we see the God who went as low as He could go. When You are God, becoming like Your creation is as low as you can go.
How Human Was Jesus?
Many years ago there was a young adult that stood on the University of Washington campus with a giant sign that read “Jesus Farted.” As you can suspect it created a huge stir among both Christians and non-Christians as people began shouting at him “no He didn’t.” This man’s response was “yes He did, He was a Man just like you and I.” Now, we aren’t looking to belittle the humanity of Jesus but we also don’t want to exalt it to a place that it doesn’t belong. The other thing I don’t want to do is be disrespectful when it comes to talking about Jesus Christ.
But what I love about this sign that this young man held up, is that it’s true. Recently when I was preaching about Jesus’ incarnation I talked with a young man and when I told him that Jesus farted, he responded by saying “no, He didn’t.” I gave the young man time to think about what He said, and as he thought about it he realized how stupid it sounded. Then he said to me “well, I guess I never really thought about Jesus going to the bathroom.” I said “well neither do I, but He did.” It’s not like I spend time thinking about Jesus going to the bathroom, but in all reality He did. If we don’t see that Jesus was really human we will struggle to share with Him our humanity because we will see a God that doesn’t relate with our humanity and only see a God that is just that, God and not human.
Jesus was the Son of a carpenter so we could have expected to see Him carrying a lunchbox in one hand and a hammer in the other. He would have had calloused hands with dirt under His finger nails as they didn’t have Gojo hand cleaner back then. He would have burped, blown buggers and high fived His buddies. Jesus didn’t float around like some sort of angel with a halo and a shinning countenance around His head like some pictures we have today. He most defiantly didn’t have flowing blonde hair like something out of a Hollywood movie poster child for Paul Mitchell hair products. Have you ever seen a long blonde haired, blue eyed middle easterner? Neither have I. And His voice wasn’t some sort of James Earl Jones, or Charlton Hesston Bible narrator. Jesus was a dude who worked hard, who understood what it meant to be a Man and live like a Son underneath a hardworking father.
We know that Jesus was human because He was born of a women, had a normal body of flesh and blood, grew up as boy, had a family, worshipped God, prayed, fasted, worked as a carpenter, got hungry and thirsty, asked for information and had brother’s sister’s. For a long time theologians have challenged both the divinity and the humanity of Jesus Christ. The reason they argue it and try to make Him either or, is because they don’t see how these two realties can live, together, in harmony within One Person. The reason it’s for us to accept is that it’s hard to understand. It is a miracle. It’s never happened since and it will never happen again.
Madeleine L’ Engle said “To be a Christian is to believe in the impossible. Jesus was God and Jesus was man.” The reason scholars want to argue with the doctrine of the Incarnation, is because it takes faith to believe it. It’s never happened before and it will never happen again. And Martin Luther said “You should point to the whole Man of Jesus and say that’s God.” Martin Luther is correct. You can’t look at Jesus and just take one side of Him and leave the other. He wasn’t one or the other, but both. And just like Martin Luther said, we also must look at the whole Man of Jesus and proclaim this is who God is.
Now in the Church I have heard many preachers and ministers say that when Jesus came the first time, He was a Lamb and when He returns for the second coming He will be a Lion. Now it is true that Jesus’ primary mission when He came was to be more like a Lamb than a Lion, but that doesn’t mean He wasn’t still a Lion while being the Lamb of God. It’s not like He is either one or the other. And when Jesus returns for the second coming though He is going to be more like a Lion in the way that He takes over the nations of the earth, He will still be a Lamb. When John sees Jesus begin to open the scroll in Revelation 6, He doesn’t see a Lion doing it, He sees a Lamb opening the seals. Jesus is both a Lion and a Lamb, at the same time. One doesn’t make Him any less than the other. They both work together to accomplish the will of His Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit. We want to see the whole Person of Jesus and understand that He is God with many different facets.
One of the great perils of not seeing Jesus as being fully Man is that we don’t relate to Him in our weakness and in our humanity. If all we see is a God who is fully God and not human then we will shrink back from coming to Him and talking to Him about our humanity and the different things we experience as humans. But if we see that He is fully Man and fully God we won’t only worship Him and picture Him upon the throne, but we will also come before Him and share our struggles with Him.
Why would we do that? We do that because He is a Man like us, which understands life from our vantage point. While I was preparing for this message I was talking with a young man who is adopted. I asked him if he ever thought about what Jesus thinks about him being adopted. He responded with a common, “no not really”. I was then able to share with Him that Jesus was also adopted by His step dad Joseph. This blew his mind as he began to understand that Jesus totally understands his life and his situation. Jesus’ Father was God and Joseph adopted Him and took Jesus as His own Son, but it wasn’t His real, natural dad.
See the damage that we cause to those that really love God when we only see Him as being fully God and not fully Man? People don’t get to see a God who totally understands their circumstances. Hebrews 4:15 says;
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
The writer of Hebrews is making it crystal clear that Jesus was a human like us, who lived life like us, who experienced pain just like us and yet did it without sin. He knows what it’s like to have all your friends leave you. He knows what it’s like to be tried for a crime that you didn’t commit. And He knows what it’s like to trust the Father when everything is falling apart in your life. Jesus is a Man, with a physical body, who understands your world and longs to relate to you from that vantage point.
How Divine Was Jesus?
It seems that throughout Church history, Church leaders seem to either talk about Jesus being fully Man, or Fully God, but very few have emphasized both aspects of the Person of Christ. Not only is Jesus fully Man, but He is also fully God. Jesus wasn’t shy or timid about declaring that He was fully God. There are a few reasons why we know that Jesus was fully God and we are going to discuss those. Jesus claimed to be God. In Luke 22:70 Jesus said;
“ Then they all said, are You the Son of God? So He said to them, you rightly say that I am.”
Jesus is clearly telling us here, that He is the Son of God, which makes Him fully God. Jesus didn’t say that He was “a” way, or “a” truth, or “a” life, but that He was the way, the truth and the life. We know that Jesus was fully divine because He preformed miracles. John 22:25 says;
“And there are also many other things that Jesus, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”
Jesus suggested that though people didn’t believe in Him as a Person, they should believe in Him for His works sake. And one of the main reasons that we know Jesus was fully God was because He forgave sin. Luke 7:48 says;
“Then He said to her, your sins are forgiven you.”
Healing people is one thing, but to forgive sin, even the stain of sin upon the human heart is something that only Someone who is fully divine can do. Most of our earth’s resources are spent trying to fix the problems of sin that originated at the fall in the garden. Only Jesus is able to forgive sins and create clean people by the power of His great name.
For many of you, it can feel that your humanity drives away Jesus’ divinity from you. But this is actually why He has come. Jesus came to earth because of the condition of lost humanity. Jesus’ divinity isn’t put off by your humanity, it’s actually attracted to it. Jesus longs for you to see your humanity and the need for His divinity. It’s only through Christ that the humanity within each of us can live alongside Jesus’ divinity. His divinity has come to empower you in your humanity to love Him in the way that He loves you and to love others in the way that He loves others.
Don’t shrink back from understanding Jesus as being both fully God and fully Man. When we fail to see Jesus’ humanity, we end up being proud people. But when we see both, Jesus’ humanity and His divinity alive in the incarnate Christ we become humble people that are filled with the power of God to serve the earth like Jesus did. Worship the God who became flesh, for the redemption of lost humanity.