Last week we began a brief study of the Christ with a look at what the Scripture says about Him before He came into this world as Jesus of Nazareth. The world, including even the religious world, has some pretty off-target ideas about Him, but Christians can know that truth about the Savior by reading the Bible. And when it comes to the incarnation, the “enfleshment” of the Christ, the amazement, the accomplishment, and the glory blow the mind, leave us with a profound sense of humility and awe, and leave us with some important things to apply to our lives.
He emptied Himself to become a man
And it starts with something startling—an emptying! It is Paul that reveals this amazing and wonder-filled truth in Philippians 2:5-7 “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” While it is true that mankind is made in the likeness of God, even so, this is a gargantuan step down—from un-temptable to temptable, from a glorious to being “like one from whom men hide their face…despised”, from divine invincibility to human frailty, from command giver to command obeyer, from immortal to mortal, from living in perfect holiness to living in the midst of all the corruption and sin of this fallen world, and so much more. What great, magnanimous grace it was to take such a dizzying step down from Heaven to Mary’s womb and then to a stable in Bethlehem! Sometimes we marvel Christ’s humility at the foot-washing scene of John 13, but much more amazing is the Christ’s emptying of Himself to become a man. It’s something to think about next time our pride starts to get in the way of doing right.
All the fullness of Deity dwelt in Him
But just because He emptied Himself, He was not any less God. Paul tells us Colossians 2:9 “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,” While men are souls in the likeness of God which have been clothed in flesh, Jesus was God Himself clothed in flesh! This made Him 100% man, while being 100% God, too. There were some in the late first century and second century (and there are still some) who had difficulty wrapping their minds around Jesus’ being God and man. They claimed that He was an illusion, a visible spirit or “emanation” that left no footprint in the sand, when he walked on the beach. But John testifies strongly, 1 John 1:1-4 “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life…” We shouldn’t wonder too much at this; our own essence as men is really spirit—we simply inhabit a fleshly body. So, Jesus also being in essence a spirit (though exalted in the highest degree possible), also took on flesh through the miraculous virgin birth.
Jesus knows about suffering and temptation
Because of the fact that Jesus is both fully God and man (also see Hebrews 2:14-18) He knows intimately and experientially about suffering and temptation—Isaiah 53:4 “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried…” This fact carries wonderful comfort, encouragement, inspiration, and help for us as weak human beings—God knows! God really knows—not just in the academic, cerebral, head-knowledge sense of knowing—what it is like to be you. He knows what it’s like to be sick, to stump your toe, lose a loved one, to be young, to feel oppressed, and so much more. The Hebrew writer tells us (Hebrews 4:15) “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Never believe the lie that God just can’t know how you feel; He really has been there and done that.
He came to seek and to save the lost
But Jesus the Christ didn’t just come to see what it’s like to be human—like a divine slumming adventure—He came with a real, crux-of-human-history mission. Luke 19:10 quotes Jesus as saying, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Were it not for what Jesus taught, how He lived, His unbelievably heroic death on the cross, and His resurrection, we’d have no hope. At all. Do you know your mission? Billions in the world either have no purpose for their lives or have a mistaken mission—making money, living it up, blowing people up in the name of your god, etc. And sadly there are thousands of disciples of Christ living as if they don’t know what their mission is. Sometimes it’s complex—family responsibilities, sharing the Gospel, serving in the church, service in the community, being a light in your corner of the world, etc.—but our mission always centers around His continuing mission to seek and to save the lost. Got mission?
The last facet of the Christ’s incarnation is His resurrection. His mission continued after His sacrifice on the cross. Though you might think that death would be the end of Christ’s incarnation, there was still one more thing to accomplish in “the flesh”. Paul explains it this way: 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” His resurrected flesh is a our guarantee and model for our own flesh’s resurrection.