Summary: In the decision to go to the cross, Jesus made the decision to identify with humanity in the final and greatest way.
God Loved So Much
Easter Weekend Message
April 10, 2004
When we think of Incarnation, if we think of it at all, we think of it in the Christmas season. We understand that Incarnation has to do with God coming to be with us, and we understand that he did this by coming in Jesus as a baby. He came with all the wonder and awe that is appropriate for that part of the story in mid-winter, as we celebrate it. God, through Jesus, identified with men and women and came- as a special baby, yes- and Immanuel (God with us) was true.
However, we- humans and other creatures- are not only born. We live and we die. A German philosopher, Martin Heidegger, declared that our being is "being- towards- death". For Immanuel to be true, more than birth was necessary.
If our Creator, wanted to lovingly redeem the human condition, more was required. If our Creator and the Creator of all creatures, wanted to redeem us in and from our current condition, more than his birth was needed. Remember what Paul declares in Ro.8.22sq. - all creation groans waiting for the revealing of God’s children so they can be rescued from their state. To redeem the rest of creation and us, he "must" follow the life of creation through to the nonbeing- death- toward which all our lives move. This is the reality of our lives. Death is interesting in that it’s not just an end that comes sometime; it’s reality is embedded in our human consciousness all the way through. We know it’s coming. We’re aware that it’s coming and, at all stages of life, we think of it sometimes. We’re brought face-to-face with it when a parent dies, no matter how old or young we might be, or when a child dies, or a friend dies, or a parent of a friend dies, and so on.
Eccl.9.5- declares this reality of our lives, and this reality has a necessary impact on how God had to be in order to fully be Immanuel.
Christmas is beautiful. The story about Jesus, which we focus on at Christmas, is filled with wonder, because it affirms and celebrates the great good and worth of all creation. This is a perspective, by the way, that is found in no other faith. God declares the good- the nobility- of humanity. We, Christians, sometimes, focus on the nothingness and the sinfulness to such a degree that we miss the affirmative messages that God gives us. Christmas gives us such an incredible message about how highly God views us. But if that were all we had in the Christian story- and celebration year- God could not reach us in the reality of our lives. God’s love- that is ready to suffer birth in human form- "must" follow through, if He really loves creation.
About this, Francis Schaeffer, in "He is There and He is Not Silent", wrote:
"Another question in the dilemma of man is man’s nobility. Perhaps you do not like the world "nobility," but whatever word you choose, there is something great about man. I want to add here that evangelicals have made a horrible mistake by often equating the fact that man is lost and under God’s judgment with the idea that man is nothing- a zero. This is not what the Bible says. There is something great about man, and we have lost perhaps our greatest opportunity of evangelism in our generation by not insisting that it is the Bible which explains why man is great."
God’s great feeling for creation, and especially for humanity, is clear in one giant verse:
John 3.16- if this is true, to be born as a baby was not enough. He "must" suffer life, not only birth. And he "must" suffer death, too. There could be no other way. The reality is that some decisions lead to other necessary decisions, and there is no logical alternative. When God made one decision about being born human, He "had" to make other resulting decisions, too, in order to fully demonstrate what He had "decided" to demonstrate, to declare, and to be.
Think about this for a moment. IF incarnation were just about Jesus coming as a baby- that’s wonderful and it’s amazing- no question about it. If our problem were only that we are flesh, that would be enough, too. But that’s not all. Life is not less just because we’re flesh, although that’s significant. But life is…. well, life. God loving us only in coming as a baby is not enough. Incarnation that does not go on for the entire span of creaturely life could be said to "heal the hurts of my people lightly". Christmas is not enough. Incarnation must include Good Friday, too.