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The Incarnation

The greatest event that has a beginning, but no end.

I love the way the apostle John starts his Gospel, “In the beginning…”

What is he referring to? The beginning of the creation? The beginning of the earth? The beginning of the universe? The beginning of time? The beginning of the plan of God? We don’t know, but what we do know is the best translation of the Greek refers to origin, or the beginning of all things. We know John makes it clear he is not referring to the beginning of the Word, because he says, “In the beginning was the Word.” Granted, the word “was” is an English word translated from the Greek, but it points to the “I Am,” or the eternal existence of the Word. Beginnings and endings are part of time and space, God is outside both; he has no beginning. So I like to think of John’s focus as the beginning of God’s plan. Let’s continue.

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1 NRSVUE)

John is making it clear that the Word is not a created being; he is God. There was never a time that the Word was not a part of God or God was not part of the Word. John wants his reader to understand the significance of who the Word is – he is God. John continues:

 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What came into being in him is life, and the life was the light of all people. (John 1:2-3 NRSVUE)

To further emphasize his point, John is making it clear that this Word who has always been is the creator – the one responsible for all of creation; without this Word, we would not have life.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. (John 1:10-11 NRSVUE)

John next emphasizes that this Word – the Logos – God – wasn’t absent or apart from humanity. Here are just a few reminders.

  • The Word walked in the Garden with Adam and Eve.
  • The Word spoke to Cain after Cain murdered Abel. (Notice the Word was still present in the midst of sin. Sin didn’t turn God away; sin causes man to turn away. That will preach.)
  • The Word spoke to Noah and told him to build an ark.
  • The Word promised Abraham he would be the father of many nations.
  • The Word wrestled with Jacob, and later told him it was safe to move to Egypt.
  • The Word met Moses in a burning bush and guided him as Moses challenged Pharoah.
  • The Word led Israel out of Egypt, using fire by night and a cloud by day.
  • The Word revealed himself to Moses on Mt Sinai.
  • The Word appeared in the tent in the Holy of Holies as Israel wandered the wilderness.
  • The Word spoke to several kings and prophets.

The Word – who was with God and who is God – has always been present with humanity. John wants this made clear as he progresses in sharing who Jesus was, is, and will be. John’s statement that “the world did not know him… and his own people did not accept him” is a brief summary of more than 4,000 years of humanity’s existence. From the very beginning humanity rejected walking in relationship with God, desired to do things their own way, and preferred to hear from God through a mediator (Moses, Joshua, prophets, kings, and priests. We refer to this time period as “the fall.”

Then God put the biggest, most exciting, most transformational part of his plan into motion.

 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NRSVUE)

I will spend the rest of my life attempting to grasp the significance of these words. We call this transformation, INCARNATION. (Yes, I actually capitalized the entire word because it needs to be emphasized.)

Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines Incarnation like this:

Incarnation [N] that act of grace whereby Christ took our human nature into union with his Divine Person, became man. Christ is both God and man. Human attributes and actions are predicated of him, and he of whom they are predicated is God.

The Word who was in the beginning, the one who was with God, the one who was God, became flesh. He became one of us. He started the same way we started – in the womb. He entered the world the same way we enter the world – in pain and joy. He learned to walk; he learned to talk; he went to school; he played with friends; he learned a skill with his dad – carpentry or stonework; he spent time in church (synagogue); he learned to obey his parents; he got dirty and sweaty; he got angry and happy; he laughed, and he cried. He was fully human because, as Author Max Lucado phrased it, “He took off his robe of light and put on pigmented human skin.”

This is the beginning of the Incarnation, but it is just the beginning. Jesus didn’t put on humanity for a few years and then throw it off at his death and say, “Whew! I am glad that is over.” No, Jesus kept his humanity. He remains human. He is the first of the first of what we term “glorified humanity.” We don’t know what that is, but we do know it is good – very good.

The Incarnation is the most unprecedented event ever – and let me put this in all caps as well. GOD BECAME FLESH. Wow! Take a few moments, hours, days, weeks, years to think on that. Our God loves us so much, he put aside his equality with the Father and became one of us.

The apostle Paul said it best as he encouraged believers in Philippi to have the same mind as Jesus Christ. Here he describes the Incarnation:

Who, though he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, assuming human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a human, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.

Therefore God exalted him even more highly and gave him the name that is above every other name, so that at the name given to Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11)

The Incarnation is the greatest event that has a beginning, but no end.

Merry Christmas,

Rick Shallenberger

7 thoughts on “The Incarnation”

  1. I love the phrase: “The Incarnation is the greatest event that has a beginning, but no end.” Amazingly true and exciting!

  2. Saint Rick, Thanks for this stunningly clear exposition of John’s entry to the Gospel. It is ALMOST TOTALLY UNBELIEVABLE!! I too have struggled for years trying to wrap my mind around this event, person & plan of God!! That God has lived FOREVER, is something our limited minds can not grasp!! I have given up trying to get it!! I am however absolutely convinced that NOTHING else is even reasonable!! I am looking forward to being there with all the Saints I’ve known and loved over my life and enjoying them and never-ending life in His Glorious Kingdom. I wonder “HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE US TO REALLY APPRECIATE HIM AND LIFE WITH GOD”?? I am preparing to be “stunned” beyond belief!! I Cor. 2:9!! NEB. On my formal living room coffee table I have a 17 1/4″ X 14 1/4″ book titled “COSMOS”. It contains some of the most stunning/breathtaking photos of the universe I have ever seen!!! They are from photos taken by Palomar/Hubble/Keck I & 2, etc. You can NOT look through it without have a small inkling of the Greatness/Grandeur & Glory of God. May the Great God come soon!! Thanks again. Briscoe Ellett II, pastor emeritus.

  3. Wow, seeing incarnation outlined by Rick, really hits home with me. God is love, Jesus really loves us all unconditionally, Jesus is the Word and God, wow.

  4. “He took off his robe of light and put on pigmented human skin.” A very creative phrase to describe Jesus’ incarnation

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