When I was offered the opportunity to preach on Christmas Day, my mind ran to the theme of the incarnation, the central jewel in the Christmas crown, to Philippians 2 and the self-emptying of Jesus. But what a preposterous subject to tackle; what an overwhelming thought to consider; what holy ground to tread . . . Inwardly I trembled at the responsibility of sharing with those assembled the unthinkable reality of God becoming flesh.
As I prepared, I contemplated what the incarnation meant—for God. For us, the incarnation means everything: life for death, righteousness for filthy rags, friendship with God for enmity. But for Jesus, the incarnation meant becoming nothing: our death in exchange for His life, our rags in exchange for His righteousness, our enmity with God in exchange for His intimate love from eternity.
I worship. No wonder Paul points to the incarnation as a full-color demonstration of the mind of Christ: Christ who did not look after His own things, but looked on the things of others. And this very mind is to characterize Jesus’ followers: unselfish love, humbly counting others more significant than ourselves.
Best, Jesus mind is not just a model, an impossible example for us. We’re given His mind. Because of the incarnation we have the ability to see beyond our self-darkened purview . . . to think His thoughts . . . to consider Him.
When the Word became flesh,
the Sovereign became the Subject,
the Healer of all our diseases took on the ability
to be sick, to feel pain, to suffer,
the Prince of Life was enabled to die.
Think of it:
For the first time in eternity, God learned:
He learned the utter helplessness of a fragile, dependent baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes so that even His first jerky movements were restricted.
The God who fashioned the legs of the gazelle and made the deer to leap upon high places learned to crawl, to walk, to run. He tottered and tumbled and scraped His knees just like any other boy.
The One who spoke the universe into existence didn’t know the native tongue of His people when He was born. He had to learn language. He had to wait, mute, for His mother to notice and attend to His needs. He cried with discomforts and pains that God had never known before.
The God who spoke the law from Sinai had to memorize it, learn it, and walk under it with all the pressures and temptations of normal manhood.
He even learned obedience through the things He suffered.
Yes, the God who breathed life into the first man caught His own first breath as He entered the world He made. Mary’s Maker took the nourishment she provided and grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.
And He was misunderstood:
The Wisdom of God was mistaken for foolishness, the power of God for weakness, the holiness of God for impurity. “Look!” they said, “The Son of man is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”
His brothers thought His time was ready when His hour had not yet come. These who knew Him in the most ordinary functions of life didn’t believe Him. “‘No one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly,’ they told Him. ‘If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.’ For not even His brothers believed in Him.”
Even in His role as Servant, those He served didn’t understand or appreciate what He did. When He spoke, the Voice that shook the mountains and stilled the waves often was met with confusion and incomprehension.
He experienced pain:
His Light shone in the darkness—and was rejected.
His Love was lavished on the undeserving—and was hated.
His Body grew hungry and tired and footsore just like ours would have been had we spent weeks without food, nights in prayer, days walking dusty paths.
Then finally, His body was beaten and crucified.
The very worst—and the very best:
Because God took up residence in human flesh,
He could bear our sin.
He could be cut off from the fellowship of His Father.
God could be abandoned by God.
All this because God took on human flesh and dwelt among us.
All this because God wanted to show us who He really is.
All this because our sin required a Savior.
All this because of the incarnation.
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, He said,
“Sacrifices and offerings You have not desired,
but a body have You prepared for Me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings You have taken no pleasure.”
Then I said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God,
as it is written of Me in the scroll of the book.”
© December 2011 by Robert G. Robbins