God Made Flesh
When a person makes his home among people, he moves in with them. He identifies with them. The incarnation is the moving in of the eternal Word so that he utterly identifies with us in every way. He took the whole nature of a human being, fully and totally identifying with all that it means for us to be human, including that which psychologists tell us is the most traumatic event of human life—birth.
A well-loved Christmas carol contains the line, “He abhors not the virgin’s womb.”1 This should cause a bit of wonder and awe. The eternal God of all the universe did not abhor a virgin’s womb. How messy!
I assisted with the delivery of two of our children. A few minutes before Christopher, our first child, was born, Barbara’s obstetrician asked, “Do you want to do this?”
I said, “Sure.”
He said, “Wash up.” And I did. I delivered Christopher, and two years later I delivered Carey. I thought I might drop her, she was so slippery. Birth is messy! What a wonder that the eternal Word of God did not shun being born.
It had to happen this way. Only in the complete identification with our flesh could Christ be the second Adam, the perfect man that Adam was not. Adam sinned and died as a man; only as a man could Jesus do what Adam failed to do and be the mediator between God and man. Why? Because only flesh can die.
The same truth is amplified in the next phrase of John 1:14, “the Word dwelt among us,” literally, “tabernacled among us,” which means, “he pitched a tent among us.” The Old Testament tabernacle is where God moved in and lived with his people. This tabernacle had no meaning apart from Jesus Christ. Its whole purpose in the wilderness was to point people forward to the true Tabernacle who was to come, the Son of God. “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).
Jesus as Tabernacle
Think about Jesus as the Tabernacle.
The tabernacle was for use in the wilderness: “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Matt. 4:1).
The tabernacle was outwardly humble and unattractive: “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him” (Isa. 53:2). The tabernacle was where God met with men: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6).
The tabernacle was the center of Israel’s camp, a gathering place for God’s people: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself ” (John 12:32).
The tabernacle was where sacrifices for the sins of God’s people were made: “But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12).
The tabernacle was a place of worship: “My Lord and My God” (John 20:28).
We do not understand the teaching of the Old Testament in all of its fullness unless we read it through Jesus Christ—his incarnation, life, death, and resurrection. The tabernacle has absolutely no meaning apart from Jesus.
Thousands of years before Jesus, God purposed that there be a tabernacle in order that there would be One who would fulfill the meaning of that tabernacle, who would be the true Tabernacle for us. Just as the tabernacle in the wilderness contained and displayed God’s glory (Ex. 40:34–35), even more do we behold “the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
Moses sought to look upon the glory of God, and he was warned by God himself not to look (Ex. 33:18–20); but we have the privilege of looking upon the face of the Word of God, upon Jesus, by faith through his Word. Later, one day, by sight we will see the face of Jesus, who will be the full revelation of God and manifestation of his glory.
His Glory Displayed
Glory means weight in the literal Hebrew. Many Christians today are into what we could call “Christian lite,” like a “lite” beer. “Give me a little Jesus, just enough to make me happy.” God thunders into our lives in his flesh and says that we behold in him the glory of God, full of grace and truth.
We do not understand the teaching of the Old Testament in all of its fullness unless we read it through Jesus Christ—his incarnation, life, death, and resurrection.
Grace? What is grace? Is it a sprinkling of fairy dust, a warm, happy feeling? No. Grace is a power that lifts you out of the domain of darkness and transfers you to the domain of light. Grace is God’s magnificent power erupting in your heart and soul by his own intervention so that you move from death to life, from darkness to light, from hell to heaven. Grace is power that is embodied in a person.
What is truth? Twenty-five times in the Gospel of John we read about truth. Does truth mean “factual truth”? Yes, it does. “Objective truth”? Yes. But it means more than that; it also means truth that is embodied, infleshed. It means truth that is in the character of an individual. We find in Jesus Christ the One whose glory is displayed by the grace and the truth that he powerfully delivers to people.
Glory in the Gospel of John is used to describe the death of Christ. That is amazing. In John 12:23–24, for example, we read, “And Jesus answered them, saying, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’” John Donne, in The Book of Uncommon Prayers, says, “The whole of Christ’s life was a continual passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha, where he was crucified, even in Bethlehem, where he was born; for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as the cross at last. His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of one and the same day. From the crèche to the cross is an inseparable line. Christmas only points forward to Good Friday and Easter. It can have no meaning apart from that, where the Son of God displayed his glory by his death.”2 Grace is a person; Truth is a person—Jesus, come to you in the flesh.
- Attributed to John Francis Wade, “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” Trinity Hymnal (Philadelphia: Great Commission Publications, 1961), 208.
- John Donne, “Christmas Day, 1626,” in Sermons of John Donne, ed. Evelyn M. Simpson and George R. Potter (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1962), 7:279.
This article is by Joseph “Skip” Ryan and is adapted from Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas edited by Nancy Guthrie.
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