Summary: what does the incarnation mean


There have been some one hit wonders in the pop world. One was Joan Osborne’s song What if God was one of us? Some of the lyrics go as follows:

If God had a name, what would it be?

And would you call it to his face,

If you were faced with him in all his glory?

What would you ask if you had just one question?

It was a one hit wonder song, but it asks some of the most profound questions ever penned by a human hand and mind. What if God was one of us? What is his name? What would I ask him if I could talk to him as I am talking to you now? Joan Osborne gave no answers to her questions in the remaining lyrics of her song. But turn with me to John chapter 1. This is surely some of the most beautiful and the most profound words ever written by a human hand.

Read John 1 v1-14. Now I want this evening to concentrate on verse 4 because it actually tells us God did become one of us. At one point in time, in space and in history God became man. At one point in the history of this universe God entered time space as a baby and became part of the human race. But before we come to that I want to read you a love story.

Read Soren Kierkegaard’s parable about the king and the maiden.

The king loved that humble maiden, dressed in all her rags, her lack of education and etiquette – despite all of this he loved her. He set aside, gave up the palace, his royal pleasures and privileges and lived as a peasant in order to prove his love for her and to win her hand. He became as ragged as the one he loved, so that she could be united with him forever. It was the only way. His raggedness became the very signature of his presence.

‘ And this shall be sign to unto you: ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’

Read Philippians 2 v5-8. This is the God who took of his majesty, emptied himself, wrapped a towel around his waist and washed his disciples feet. This is the one of whom Isaiah said ‘He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.’

Now listen to what John says in chapter 1 verse 14. READ.

Let us look a little more closely at this verse. We read it very quickly, too quickly. We think we understand that Jesus came to earth, that he was and is the Son of God. we speak of the Incarnation as if it were a mere fact and not the greatest event, wonder, miracle that this world has ever seen. We pass over it glibly and we as Christians do it a great disservice when we dare to claim incarnational ministry for ourselves. The incarnation does not, never has, and never will apply to us. I want to repeat that – the incarnation does not, never has, and never shall apply to us.

So come with me and let us look again at what John, and the other gospel writers, meant when they spoke of the Incarnation.

The Word – who is this Word? Who is this that John speaks of? Look at verse 1 – this Word is the creative, sustaining, directing and guiding force, one, power behind all that is in this universe. In fact The Word is not mentioned from verse 1 till verse 14. A description of all that he is and does is compacted into 13 verses but then with startling, almost vulgar terms John states ‘the Word became flesh.’

We have lost the sense of wonder, amazement, horror and blasphemy this statement would have engendered amongst those who heard the gospel for the first time. John says the Word (Jesus) became flesh – he deliberately used the Greek word for ‘flesh’ (sarx) and not the word for man or person. He uses the word sarx which speaks of ‘the flesh’ – it is the same word which the apostle Paul uses to describe man in all his weakness and in all his liability to sin. john uses sarx because it is the Greek word which stands of the whole person. He deliberately bypasses the word for ‘man’ or ‘a body’ to use sarx, ‘in the flesh.’ John wants his hearers, and us, to understand that when the Word became flesh he took on human existence in all its frailty and vulnerability yet without sin. So John says the Word which in verse 1 is one with the Father in divinity is in v 14 one with us in humanity. That is an astounding statement. In fact in John’s day to the Jews it was a blasphemous statement and to the Greeks it was a foolish statement. Yet John deliberately chooses to state ‘The Word became flesh.’

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