In the Incarnation a star shone brightly; in the Crucifixion
darkness covered the land.
In the Incarnation people came joyously to see the child; in
the Crucifixion people left beating their breasts.
In the Incarnation people brought gifts; in the Crucifixion
they striped Him and stole His clothes.
In the Incarnation an innocent baby was brought into the
world with much gladness; in the Crucifixion the Innocent One was sent to His
death with much mocking.
The Incarnation brought the promise of hope; the Crucifixion
fulfilled the promise of salvation.
Two of the greatest events in human history, both involving
the same Person, and yet they could hardly be any different. Nonetheless, they
are tied together by one theme—to take the unloved, the useless, the broken and
bring us into a personal relationship with God the Creator. Without the
Incarnation we are orphaned forever. Without the Crucifixion we are guilty
forever. And without the Resurrection we are hopeless forever. But because of
those three events we can be born-again to a living hope. We have been
delivered from the Domain of Darkness and Transferred to the Kingdom of His
beloved Son. The unloved has been adopted, the useless sanctified, and the
The Incarnation was not just another event. It was an event
that shook the universe and for those of us who have made the incarnated God
our Savior, it shook our lives also.
Jesus was given two names at his birth – Jesus and Immanuel
(Mt. 1:21-25). Jesus is the transliteration of the Hebrew name “Joshua” which
means “God is Savior.” This looked back to the human deliverer Joshua who
helped lead Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land of Israel. Immanuel
means “God is with us.” This looked to the present when God Himself would walk
among us. Both names together reveal the dual God/man nature of Jesus.
Why did God choose to become a human?
The term incarnation is of Latin origin, and it means
“becoming in flesh.”
The Incarnation revealed God to us
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers
in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2in
these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all
things, through whom also He made the world. 3And
He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature
John 14:9, “… He who
has seen Me has seen the Father…”
Jesus showed us what God is like. It is one
thing to say that God cares about us. It is quite another to show it by allowing
Himself to be nailed to a piece of wood and left hanging to die. It is one
thing to say, “Sure, God can do miracles; He can do anything.” It is more
tangible to see Jesus feed over five thousand people with just five loaves of
bread and two fish. It is abstract to say that God is compassionate. But after
John the Baptist was beheaded, Jesus went away to be by Himself to grieve. When
He came back, the crowds surrounded Him, but He did not shoo them away. He did
not say, “Look, my best friend just had his head cut off. Can you people leave
Me alone for just once?” Rather, He felt compassion for them and healed them.
This reveals the heart of God more than a declaration that “God is
compassionate.” We can study the Gospels, meditate on every interaction that
Jesus had with people and see the true character of God. Jesus is God in
intimate action with us. It was not God in a flaming altar or in the Holy of
Holies blocked by a thick curtain and see by one man only once a year. It was
not even God in a cloud at day and a flame at night. This was God walking in
the same dust as we, eating the same food, and physically touching us.
God wired us to respond more deeply and broadly to stories
than to naked facts. Yes, a fact can change our lives: Jesus Christ died to pay
for my sins. But a vivid story wraps itself around us and does not let go for
days, sometimes even for a lifetime. Listen to this condensed story. “My time
is near… One of you will betray Me… My Father, if it is possible, let this cup
pass from Me… Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy… Then they spat in His
face and beat Him with their fists… Crucify Him!... They came to a place called
Golgotha… It was the third hour when they crucified Him… The robbers who had
been crucified with Him were also insulting Him… Father, forgive them; for they
know not what they are doing… And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and
yielded up His spirit. The Tomb was empty.” This story draws us to a Person. We
see Jesus with blood and dirt caked on His lips as He stumbles while carrying
the cross. We reach out and grab His arm and help Him up. We feel His flesh in
our trembling hand, and we look into His watery eyes when He turns His head to
see who touched Him. In the comfort of our room we shudder and breathe heavily.
We are more than convicted, we are affected. This is what stories can do. Our
minds lift us beyond rock hard facts and plunge us into swirling waters of
experience and then demands that we respond. God among us.
The Incarnation revealed our sinfulness
But God incarnate also reveals to us just
how sinful we are. If during one of our greatest triumphs in life when we are
surrounded by people shouting our praise and we are the center of attention a
blind, filthy beggar started shouting our name and ruining everything how would
we react? Most likely we would ignore him and keep going. Or possibly tell the
biggest guys next to us to shut him up and take him somewhere else. I doubt
that we would stop and focus everyone’s attention on that beggar and ask him
how we could help him. Yet this is what Jesus did during His triumph entry into
When one of our best friends betrays us
don’t we lie awake at night scheming against them? Well, at least I do. Jesus
We cannot read the Gospels and not be amazed
at how perfectly Jesus responded in every situation whether it was His humility
at a time of triumph or His complete trust in His Father at His lowest moments.
Our lives are far closer to that of the Pharisees than to that of Jesus.
We can re-interpret rules and commandments.
We can bend principles to match our own standards. We can compare ourselves to
other people and always come out on top. But when we compare ourselves to Jesus
Christ we must necessarily shrink back. We are not perfect. We are not as good
as we think that we are. We need redemption. Jesus makes that perfectly clear.
The Incarnation emphasizes relationship
The Bible is not a book of rules; it is a book about
relationships and primarily our relationship with God. In Genesis 1 right after
man and woman were created we read an amazing sequence in verses 27 and 28, “…
He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them...”: creation,
blessing, and then immediately personal interaction.
Then 1189 chapters later we come to the last quote in the
Bible. Revelation 22:20 is from Jesus, “Yes, I am coming soon.” We see God’s
promise of coming to be more intimate with us. And everywhere in between these
two passages we continually read the premium that God places on relationships with
us. He is our Father, we are adopted as sons and daughters, we are the bride of
It is crucial that we read the Bible not just to learn about
God but to know God. A fascinating example of this is Job. In Job 1:1 Job was
“blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” He had a true heart
for God, but there was one thing that lacked. It was not until he had
persevered through his terrible trials that he was then able to conclude, “My
ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” (Job 42:5). Job had made
that transformation from knowledge to relationship.
We are incomplete unless we are in relationship with God.
May we have a deep and constant desire to be with God and to be in His presence
where there is “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11 NASB).
God does not keep us at arm’s length. He is not a timekeeper
who winds up a watch and walks away. Nor is He a king who rules His kingdom
high up in His castle unsoiled by the filth and sin in the streets below.
History is all about God drawing closer to us. At first,
before sin, God walked with Adam and Eve. Then the Fall separated us from God.
In the OT, God resided in an ark in the Holy of Holies that only a chosen few
people could enter but whom an entire nation could see at a distance. Then in
the Gospels, God once again walked among us but was accessible to only a
relatively small number of people in the nation Israel. Then in the church age
God dwells in all of us through His Holy Spirit. Finally, in Heaven we will be
with God forever.
We can see how God puts such a high premium on relationships
in the words that He uses. He refers to us as brothers and sisters, as sons and
daughters. We are the bride of Christ. And what does He ask us to call Him? Is
it King, Most Sovereign Creator, Most High and Holy One? He is all of these
things, but what He asks us to call Him is “Abba! Father!” (Galatians
4:6—“Abba” is Aramaic for father). Then ultimately, God has created Heaven not
so that He can give us a bunch of fun stuff so that we can be forever happy but
He as He says in Revelation 21:7, “I will be his God and he
will be My son.” Our true joy in Heaven will be being with God.
We are able to unite with God in a special and unique way
Because Jesus was one of us, it enables us to feel more of
an intimate relationship with our Creator. God is not some unreachable,
incomprehensible being. Instead He looked like us. He spoke our language. He
wore clothes and worked. He brought near to Himself those who were outcast,
rejected, and opposed.
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 through His poverty might become rich.”
He gives us a perfect example
Jesus’ life as we can read it in the Gospels gives us a
perfect example of how we should live our lives in general.
1 John 2:6, “the one who says he abides in
Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”
What are some of Jesus’ examples that we
are to emulate?
We return love for hate.
We forgive even the worst of sins against
We listen to and actively work with the
most oppressed and lowest of society.
We feed His flock in whatever ways that
We try to calm the fears and anxieties of
We consider others to be more important
We share God’s truth with believers and
We entrust ourselves to our Heavenly
Father when we are in trials.
We learn and know the Bible inside and
out and can accurately quote the Bible in times of need.
His life shows us how we should respond
when we are suffering.
1 Peter 2:21-23,
you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you,
leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed
no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth;
23 and while being reviled, He did not revile
in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself
to Him who judges righteously;
our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set
before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the
right hand of the throne of God.
consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that
you will not grow weary and lose heart.
does Jesus’ example help us in trials? Just in these two passages alone we can
see several ways.
Jesus was suffering by being treated poorly by others, He did not revile them,
He did not threaten them, He did not lie to them or make them worse than they
were to justify Himself. Rather, He focused on not sinning but on doing what
trusted in His Father to judge them. Jesus did not seek vengeance.
looked past the present suffering to focus on the joy of Heaven that is
promised and set before Him. He didn’t play the victim. He didn’t play the pity
card. Rather He stayed fixed on the eventual joy that He knew would come.
course, in other passages we can find many more examples of how Jesus properly
thought and acted when suffering. But even here, we can read that two of the
benefits of imitating Jesus during trials is 1) we will not grow weary, i.e. we
will not give up on doing what is right and 2) we will not lose heart, i.e. we
will stand fast in the Christian faith, fight the good fight, and finish the
This is a tough example to follow but God
will give us the grace to do it when the time comes.
life gives us future hope because, ultimately, we will not be forever stuck
being what we are now. But, rather, we will become like Him. That does not mean
that we shall become God but that we will take on God’s attributes more fully.
1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now we are children
of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He
appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.”
Jesus’ incarnation helps us overcome temptation
Hebrews 2:18, “For since He Himself was
tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those
who are tempted.”
Think of any hardship that you can endure
and you will see that Jesus, at least in a general way, faced that same
temptation and yet overcame it without sinning.
Death of close relative
Abandonment by friends and family
Physical torture and suffering at the
hands of others
Being made fun of
And many, many more. We can find all of these in the
Scriptures regarding Jesus. When one of us is going through the same trial we
must look to Jesus. How did He respond?
If God did not become a person then our example of what to
do would mostly consist of other people and then we are in the dilemma of
trying to separate the virtues from the flaws.
And, of course, the biggest problem is that no one would be
able to wear “WWJD” bracelets because we would not know what Jesus would do.
It proves that the flesh is not inherently sinful and evil
Gnosticism was a Greek philosophy
that taught matter and hence the body or flesh was evil and only the Spirit was
good. They taught docetism, a dualism which made a definite separation between
the material and the spiritual world. Because matter was evil, they claimed
that Jesus could not really have been incarnate, that He couldn’t have taken on
a human body. Therefore, His human body and suffering was only an illusion.
However, the fact that Jesus became a physical person proved
that the physical body was neither bad nor evil. It is not matter or the body
that is the problem but, rather, our desire to find pleasure in that which contradicts
the character of God.
According to God’s law of redemption, the redeemer had to be a descendent
and preferably a close one
47 ‘Now if the means of a
stranger or of a sojourner with you becomes sufficient, and a countryman of yours
becomes so poor with regard to him as to sell himself to a stranger who is
sojourning with you, or to the descendants of a stranger’s family, 48 then he shall have redemption right after he has
been sold. One of his brothers may redeem him, 49 or
his uncle, or his uncle’s son, may redeem him, or one of his blood relatives
from his family may redeem him; or if he prospers, he may redeem himself.
Notice that when someone falls into such a
destitute state that they have to sell themselves to a stranger. There were
only two ways that they could be redeemed. 1) By one of his blood relatives.
The person who did the redeeming was called the kinsman-redeemer thus
emphasizing that he had to be kin, i.e. related. 2) If he is prosperous enough
then he could redeem himself.
In the same way, we have sold ourselves to
sin; it is our master. Likewise, we can only be redeemed by one of our blood
relatives. The problem is that every one of the billions of our blood relatives
is likewise sold to sin. So every one of us needs their own redeemer. The
second way is if we can redeem ourselves. The obvious problem here is that we
each owe an infinite debt and it only gets worse the longer we live. So how can
we be redeemed?
By God becoming one of us He thus became our kin; He became
our blood relative. He was, therefore, able to be our redeemer.
Hebrews 2:7, “Therefore, He had to be made
like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and
faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the
sins of the people.”
Notice what this verse in Hebrews says. Jesus had to made
like His brethren so that He could make propitiation (make favorable, appease,
conciliate) for our sins (our debts).
Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer. He is our close blood
And even more perplexing, why as a helpless baby?
Why did God not just show up for the first time as a man;
someone who just walked into town as in the old Westerns and there He was?
If Jesus was not born of a human mother then we could never be convinced of
If Jesus just walked into town like an old wild-West
gunfighter then we would never believe His full humanity. There would always be
“How can He prove it?”
“If He is fully human then why is He so mysterious about it?”
Where did He come from?
“If He just showed up as an adult then how can He say that He is
really human? He never experienced childhood or the teenage years. Those are
formidable and very crucial times in every person’s life. How can someone say that
he is fully human when he skipped those tough years?”
But Jesus was born a baby and He did go through those tough
years. Therefore, these questions are never asked because we know the answers.
Why was Jesus being born of a virgin important?
Yes, it fulfilled prophecy. Isaiah 7:14 reads, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin
will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”
Immanuel means “God is with us.”
But God didn’t have to put that prophecy in
there and, if He didn’t, then it wouldn’t have been a needed requirement of
But there are other reasons.
It was a supernatural event
If there ever was a supernatural event then God entering the
realm of humans and becoming one of us would certainly be in the top three. The
incarnation is indeed a supernatural event and being born by a virgin surely
emphasizes that this was God’s hand at work.
Jesus was unique in all of history in that no one else was
ever born of a virgin. Some people were raised from the dead, many people were
martyred and even crucified. Many did miracles. But no one was ever born of a
virgin. In this, Jesus is unique in all of history.
We can truly say that Jesus was God’s son and not Joseph’s
Isaiah 40:4, “Every valley shall be raised up, every
mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged
places a plain.”
We have many modern engineering marvels. The Big Dig (Boston) took 16 years and cost $15 billion. The Channel Tunnel that connects the UK to France took six years and $7 billion. The world’s longest suspension bridge (Akashi Kaikyo Suspension Bridge) at four miles long took two million workers 10 years to build.
These great feats that moved a lot of dirt and steel were created to bring
people from one place to another more easily,
God also wants to move us; however, not from one location to
another but from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of His beloved Son
(Colossians 1:13). To accomplish this, as this passage foreshadows, He had to
be born as one of us and, in His sovereignty, He would allow no obstacle to
stop Him. If necessary, He would have leveled every mountain and lifted up
every valley to prepare the way for the Savior. No barrier would hinder His
being born a child, growing and living among us, and then dying for our sins.
This engineering project would have infinitely eclipsed anything that we could
God also greatly desires to show us compassion and comfort.
This spiritual journey is impossible for us; we need God to tear down every
barrier to reunite us with Him. God can shake the entire world to accomplish
His purposes. He did this when He chose to be born a human in order to bring
us to Himself.
Sin is passed through the man
Many believe that the sin nature is passed down through the
man. Therefore, in order for Jesus to be sinless He could not have been born
with a sin nature. Therefore, an earthly father had to be out of the picture.
Some use Romans 5:12 to valid this, “Therefore,
just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and
so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
This concept is called Federal Headship.
This means that the father represents his descendents.
It shows that God can use anyone for anything if He so chooses
Luke 1:34, "How will this be," Mary asked the
angel, "since I am a virgin?"
Throughout the bible there are people who had a reason or
excuse as to why God could not use them. There were those who never started
(the rich, young ruler in Matthew 19), those who gave up (Demas in 2 Timothy
4), and those who compromised (Abram with Hagar in Genesis 16). But then there
were the ones who believed God and acted despite their own inabilities. Moses
protested, “I have never been eloquent” (Ex. 4:10). Abraham questioned, “Will a
son be born to a man a hundred years old?” (Genesis 17:17) And here in Luke,
Mary asked, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
Sometimes these reasons are legitimate: we have a limiting
weakness or, as with Mary, the situation seems impossible. Sometimes they are
not: we are simply lazy or do not want to be bothered. But in all situations,
God provides all sufficiency. God gives us His promises because He knows that
we are weak and afraid. In this passage God provided to Mary that which He
promises to all of us: “the Holy Spirit” and “the power of the Most High.”
Because Mary obeyed and acted there was a great result: God was true and
faithful and the virgin bore “the holy one… the Son of God.” The weak gave
birth to the Almighty and the doubter gave us the surest thing: a Savior.
So the Incarnation proves to us that no matter how weak we
may think that we are, no matter how much we have failed, no matter what sin we
have committed, God can still use us. If a young virgin girl in an obscure city
in ancient times can give birth to “God became flesh” then what limit can we
impose on God to use us?
Ultimately we can look at John 1:1, 14
1In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
14And the Word became flesh, and
dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of [l]the only
begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
In verse 1 “Word” meant “speaking, a message, or words.”
This Word was with God. The word “with” suggests “in the company of.” Whatever
this Word was, it was in the company of God. But then we learn that this Word
was actually God Himself. Thus we see a hint of the Trinity here.
Then we discover that this Word became flesh. God did not
merely look like a person. It was not an illusion. He actually became a person.
The word “dwelt” means “tabernacle” or to say that "he pitched his tent
among us." Paul also compares our body to a tent in 2 Cor. 5:1-9.
So in this magnificent passage, we see that the eternal God
became one of us. Why? The answer harkens back to verses 12 and 13:
12 But as many as received
Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those
who believe in His name, 13 who were
born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of
How can I know that someone really exists? I can see his
name in a telephone book, but maybe that is just someone else with the same
name. I can interview someone who claims to have spoken to him, but perhaps she
is lying. However, if I actually meet and talk to this person then I will be
God is unseen. How do we know that He really exists and
cares about us? The first time when God dwelt (tabernacled) with His people was
in Exodus 13:21. He led Israel in pillars of cloud and fire at the Red Sea. This was evidence to many of the invisible. Then in Exodus 40:34 God took up
residence in the temple as the Shekinah glory. But because Israel turned from God, the Shekinah glory left the temple in 586 BC (Ezekiel 11:23) and
for hundreds of years God was again invisible.
Then in God’s perfect timing He chose once again to dwell
among us. But this time instead of appearing as a “consuming fire” He came in
“grace and truth.” Instead of appearing at a distance, He walked among us.
Because God became human we can read His actual words, weep at His brutal
crucifixion, and rejoice at His resurrection. Does God exist and does He care?
He became flesh and we saw His glory. What greater proof do we need?
It all comes together. Jesus became flesh
so that we might become children of God, i.e. so that God and we might have a
close and intimate relationship. Not just so that we might go to Heaven, but
more so, that we might become the temple of God and then one day spend an
eternity glazing at His glorious face.
The Incarnation was not merely something
interesting. It was not a mere setup for the Crucifixion. It shook history. It
changed everything. It was God becoming human, becoming a baby, and walking
among us, living amidst sin while remaining perfectly sinless Himself.
Isaiah 9:6a reads, “For a child will be
born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His
shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal
Father, Prince of Peace.”
In 2005, thieves broke into a British museum and stole a
modern sculpture whose value was $6,000,000. It was never recovered and it is
feared that they melted it down for perhaps a few thousand dollars of scrap
metal. They did not understand or appreciate its value. Today we each have that
same challenge when faced with someone of even greater worth.
This passage has perhaps the greatest set of paired words of
anywhere in the Bible. “Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,”
“Prince of Peace” (“of” is not in the Hebrew). These describe someone who is
caring and wise, all powerful, timeless, loving, and harmonious. This is one
who is transcendent and majestic; who sits on the throne of Heaven surrounded
by angels who continuously cry out in adoration and worship, “Holy, holy,
Yet perhaps the most glorious and also confounding pair of
words in this passage are “to us.” We slander God and rebel against Him. We are
sinners who deserve the full and eternal wrath of God; a people who do no good
and whose mouths are full of cursing and bitterness (Romans 3). And yet, the
One who is the most magnificent was given “to us” who are most undeserving so
that He might redeem, regenerate, and glorify. This He did not grudgingly but
with great zeal and with great love. The Incarnation is God given “to us.”