Summary: 3rd sermon in a John series
The Incarnation: Seeing God
In the opening scenes of the musical Camelot, King Arthur appears standing in a field dressed in the clothes of a common peasant. To look at him, one would have no idea that he is a king. In fact when Guinevere first meets Arthur, she has no clue that he is king over all of Camelot. His outward appearance gives no indication of his royal status. The king appears as a simple peasant.
In v.1 of John’s Gospel, we were introduced to the eternal Logos who is both God and coexistent with God. He was next identified as the originator of light and life. Third, he was presented as being in the world yet unknown by its creatures. Now John’s Prologue reaches its climax when it is announced that the Logos fully participated in the realm of creation by becoming one of its creatures. The Word became flesh. The eternal Logos who was with God, who is God, and who created the world became flesh. The King of Kings became a peasant.
We call this cardinal doctrine the “Incarnation,” a Latin word that literally means, “God incorporated in flesh.” The incarnation is the biblical truth that God became one of us. The Creator became a part of His creation by taking on human flesh. It is one of the essential yet incomprehensible doctrines of our faith. It is the belief that God the Son became a human being without relinquishing his deity. It is the belief that Jesus Christ was both 100% God and 100% human at the same time. He was the God-man. Such teaching transcends human understanding.
As one pastor notes, “The Incarnation is a strange word to our ears. It is offensive to our reason, that God and man can be brought together so intimately, that the two are but one Person yet that one Person remains fully God and fully human. It is troublesome to us who were made in the image of God but who desired instead to be “like God,” knowing good and evil. In our being “like God” we are competitors with God. We want to reach up over our heads, to exalt ourselves, to be gods. We want to be the center of things, to assert ourselves over God and climb on the backs of each other. There is no inherent desire in us to become servants, nothing in us that would tie the towel around our waist and stoop down to wash feet, to become nothing for the sake of another.
This is what God has done in Jesus Christ. He has reached down to us, to be with us who continually strive to be like Him. He reached down to us deeply. He has become one of us. He became the least among us, a tiny, poor, helpless infant. We did nothing to bring Christ from heaven. He came without our invitation, without preparation, without our decision, without our welcome. He was sent by the Father, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of Mary. And all this He did without consulting us, without our help. This is entirely God’s doing, that the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.
God has brought honor to our dishonored humanity. Luther once said that the angels of heaven are not so blessed as we are, even though they are greater and stronger than we are. For the Son of God did not come as an angel, but as a man. This is the ultimate honor that God can bestow, to take up our human nature and become one of us. God dignifies our flesh and blood by wearing it as his own. He didn’t simply take possession of a man, as the devil sometimes does. He became man, fully human.
What John says here stands in sharp contrast to the philosophers and commoners of his time. For them, the Logos was an eternal, impersonal Principle. The gods of the Greeks were far removed and aloof. They had no concern for simple humanity.
Yet John declares that the Logos is not impersonal but personal. He is not far removed but intimate. God became one of us. The Word became flesh. God invaded humanity. It was on Mt. Sinai in Ex. 33-34 that God spoke to Moses and revealed Himself thru His word on two stone tablets. Now, John informs us, God’s Word, His self-expression has become flesh. God’s Word, which was given to Moses on stone, has now been made flesh.
That is why Jesus Christ is God’s ultimate revelation. The Word, who was both with God and who was God, became flesh. He donned our humanity. God chose to reveal Himself ultimately in a real, historic person. The word became flesh. He identified with us by becoming one of us.