The body is not, for Christian faith, merely a container for a "soul"; instead, the body is essential to being fully human. The doctrine of incarnation says that divinity became known in humanity, including the singular and limited bodily life of Jesus the Messiah. God became a man, so that in that Man we might know God.
'Here is an easy-to-overlook truth: myself as the pastor and everyone who listens to this sermon has a body. There are tall and lanky bodies, short and squat bodies, and average (whatever average is) bodies. There are bodies with piercings, with scars, and bodies with acne or arthritis. In the church there are stooped and aging bodies, athletic bodies, sick and dying bodies, bodies in remission and recovery, worn and weary bodies, and —a few — rested and energized bodies. Actually, it is not enough to say that we have bodies; it is better to say that we are bodies. What do I mean? You are not fully you without a body.
For the Hebrews, a “soul” is not an intangible thing trapped in a physical prison. Instead, the soul is a breathing body which gulps oxygen and the breath-spirit of God’s own life: “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” The word there is soul. A living soul.
All of our experiences, whether we call them intellectual, emotional, or spiritual, are also and always, physical. The only life we know is inescapably physical. That is how were created, that is who are, and that is what we were meant to be. This is why Jesus had to be human, or as the confession states, “He truly assumed a real human nature with all its infirmities…. He not only assumed human nature as a body, but also a true human soul, in order that he might be a real man.” A REAL MAN. We are talking about god.
Here is a statement to blow your mind: for Christians, the truest and surest revelation of God is the human being who was God – Jesus of Nazareth: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John1:14 NRSV). The doctrinal word for the sheer physicality of God’s self-revelation in Jesus is incarnation. It comes from Latin: incarne, or “enfleshed.”
The Incarnation of the Son of God was necessary for true life.
- Truly Human.
- Sinless Immanuel
Real Human nature
Jesus reveals God in skin and muscle, blood and bone. To see, hear, and touch Jesus of Nazareth was to experience the divine in and through the body of a first-century Jew. In him, God became visible, audible, and touchable. Ponder for a few moments the life Jesus lived as a body: He slept in Mary’s arms as she cuddled away the night chill.
As a body, Jesus showed God’s boundless love to the world. He wove divine wisdom into words, broke bread to feed hungry bellies and famished spirits, poured wine to gladden hearts, opened blind eyes and deaf ears with the touch of his hands, healed diseases, much like the one we are being ravished with. He took children into his arms and blessed them, knelt to wash the feet of his disciples, wept tears over the death of his friend, sweated drops of blood as he agonized in prayer over God’s will, was nailed to a Roman cross, had his side sliced open by a soldier’s spear, and died in naked shame in order to clothe our shame with grace. Are you feeling the weight yet of what it means that God became a man. This was the one through whole all things were created. In whom all things hold together. The king of Kings and Lord of Lords. Who is of infinite worth, and value? Who has infinite power, and authority? Who is from all eternity to all eternity?
He the all glorious god of heaven and earth became like one of us, to live the enfleshed relational life to show what it means to be truly human. This has massive implciations the immense value of our bodies. The bodies for which he died, and lives! And how we live.
It takes us back to the logic, and the value of creation. In Jesus Christ, God reaffirms the goodness of time, place, and bodies. He redeems all human history in his body. His flesh and blood body. Just look at how the confession goes through scripture and shows us the history of Jesus. Why? Because he is part of it. had a past that geos all the way back to the beginning of history, and a physical presence that will extend eternally into the future. Reality matter, history matter, creation matters. If you doubt that look no further than the incarnation.
It is not an accident that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a town representing kingship in the line of David, and that he was raised in Nazareth, a village in Galilee far from the religious center at Jerusalem. It is not an accident that Jesus was born to Mary, an unmarried peasant girl chosen by God to be the theotokos — the God bearer — and the bearer of the good news (Luke1:26-38).
It was not accident that he came from a family which kept birth records throughout the generations. That each person that had been born in his line had diligently records his name and his father’s name all the way back to that beloved king David! It was no accident that all through the ages no world power could totally wipe out the descendant of Abraham the father of faith, or the seed of the women who would crush the serpents head. It was no accident – time space, place, and humanity come together in this moment in history to this person and are absolutely filled with meaning. With purpose.
He lived in space and time. He suffered in the body. He stepped into our reality – experientially. The seeming chaos of this world, so that he might redeem his world. He was like us. In every respect. Do not believe the lies that he was not human, or superhuman, he was like us. He really died. So that you might really live.
Death is so terrible and evil, because life is so precious! Is so valuable! Sin strips things of their value! It debases things. Like if you have an antique book, and your kids start scribbling in it with permanent marker on each page. Sin is like that permanent marker on a antique book. It is impossible o get it out. Except in this case there is something that can redeem that book. Redeem all of history. Jesus. There is someone that can restore that book to better then its original condition. Something more perfect.
You see the fear of death is so great because the value of life is so great. Why do people fear death so much? Because it is the wages of sin. There is a debt that must be paid for sin, and that debt is death.
Death is real people. It is a real fear that people feel when confronted with death. We also see this with the corona virus. It is normal to humanity to have that fear.. We can tell ourselves all we want things like no worries, or it will be ok, but if its us saying it we know it is a lie. Because there are a million reasons to worry, and death is inevitable. Death will come to us all. So don’t give people a false hope, give them the gospel! That outside of Christ death is inevitable, but in him live is inevitable. Because he himself is the resurrection and the life.
The only way to conquer that fear is in the one that conquered death by being raised from the dead. It is only by hearing the voice of the one that says fear not, that we will not fear
And his way of revealing himself to us was by becoming one of us – living the embodied life – dying a bodily death so that he might redeem us to bodily life that bloody crucifixion was not a hologram nor a virtual reality – be a real reality. Real pain. Real agony. He was the God that was really there. Enduring the worst eternal suffering imaginable as only an eternal God can do – so that eternal suffering would not be ours. He entered into an enslaved humanity as the one who would break those chains of sin and death. Not just to free our spirits – but to free us. Body and soul. That is our comfort. That he bought us body and soul.
Our Confession says, “On this way he is in truth our Emmanuel that is, God with us. It reminds me of a song which goes like this:
Lift up your eyes and see the riches of the all-sufficient King seated on His throne in glory
See the curiosity of the cosmos as Christ condescends to His most cherished creatures
See the astonishment of angels as the Almighty advances towards Earth
See the humility of the pre-existent King born of a virgin birth
The Infinite becomes infant, the Maker becomes man
The Divine becomes despised, and the Christ is crucified
The Author of all creation cursed upon the tree that He Himself spoke into being
And the Lord of life was laid in the tomb, but the grave could not contain Him and so the Son of Man was raised to life
To draw near, to pierce our greatest fear
To shed satisfying blood on our behalf
To give back the life we were meant to have
To enjoy, to hear, to adore, to taste
And to look with peace upon our Savior's face
And to embrace Him with an undying faith
To interpose all His worthiness into us
And serve the most unworthy and undeserving
He is our God and we are mere men made by Him
We are not like Him, but He loves us and moves among us
The great Uncreated and the created, no longer separated
He is Immanuel, God with us.
He is Immanuel. God with Us. The Word made flesh. The word that dwelt among us. Man reached for divinity and fell. God gave up his divinity to become man so that he might restore them. He is flesh and blood human – the only perfect human that has ever walked this earth.
And yet! Yet he was totally GOD! God revealed himself, communicated himself to us through Jesus Christ. The God man Jesus is the revelation of God!
God in Jesus became a man, and entered into our misery, to restore to us true humanity. Physical humanity. You see the world and Satan trying hard to separate us from the real. From the physical. Its all virtual these days. We live in a virtual age. Everything is done virtually. We even have resorted to virtual worship. But the very word for worship in the Hebrew implies a body. It is the idea of bowing down, or lifting ones hand. There is not such things for us humans as purely spiritual worship – our bodies must be engaged. We all know what happens when they are not. When the are tired, or hungry, or distracted, or sore. We struggle to engage.
Furthermore There is nothing virtual about Jesus’s birth, life, death, and resurrection, and there is nothing virtual about Jesus’s invitation to follow him. Jesus incarnation shows that he wanted to be in real relationship with us. And with each other. He wanted to be known in such a personal way that he became a man! God did not virtually become a man! He really truly became an man, and is a man!
Christianity is about God with us. The unchanging one. Jesus is God! God with us! He made us for real relationship. Dare I say face to face relationships!
I so wish we could get out of our minds this gnostic idea that the spiritual is our goal, and the deep human desire to be limitless. That there is a irreconcilable different between faith and science, spiritual and physical, natural and supernatural, reason and religion. Heaven and earth. The incarnation proves this wrong! Heaven and earth met in him.
And yet we still try to be God. Pure spirit. Virtual reality tempts us in this and tries to make us limitless. Do what we want without consequences. But Computers didn’t make humans. God did. Trying to be limitless was exactly the sin of Adam and eve! That is why the limitless Christ had to become limited in his humanity – to open for us and restore to us true flesh and blood humanity. The beauty of space and time, for us created beings. The beauty of God ordained limits. Jesus Christ is perfect in his humanity now, but we even confess he is limited in our Heidelberg catechism. It is an astonishing statement.
I also think That is why God made sickness and death the result of sin. Because it continually teaches humanities limits. We are not God.
You see we would never know God in the way that we do if it was not for the person of Jesus. And we would never know what it was to be human if it was not for the person of Jesus Christ. As Colossians says, “For in him the whole fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form.” And because of that he was able to as it says, “reconcile us in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach.”
Because he died as the God man he could make peace between us and God, thereby allowing God to be God in all his justice and righteousness. And placing man again in right relationship with God, and his fellow man.
As I said this has great implications for us living in this time.
- I shows the value of human life. Human life is infinitely worthy not because of how good we are or how great we are, but because of God who has infused it with infinite worth by creating and redeeming it. We must be on the forefront of fighting for life. I think especially of abortion and euthanasia which are so prevalent.
- It shows the beauty of human relationships. If Jesus is the perfect human I think we can learn much from his life on how to live a fulfilled life. In our technological age it is all about getting the biggest audience you can get. Growing your influence. We call them influencers. I am not saying its wrong in and of themselves, I am just not sure how much influence you can have without ever seeing them and inviting them into your life. Jesus Came as flesh and blood human to have flesh and blood relationships. He spent most of his time with just 12 men. He could have decided to spend all his time public speaking but instead we see him spend most of his time in the gospels teaching a small group of men. Consider the difference of meaning in the word friend in Jesus’s statement “I have called you friends” (John15:15), and in the act of friending someone on Facebook. Consider the difference of meaning in the word follow in Jesus’s call to “follow me”, and in the act of following some׳ one on Twitter. When we friend and follow people on the Internet, time and place and bodies are irrelevant, but Jesus’s invitation to be his friend and follow him must be lived out in particular times, particular places, and with our whole bodies. The people that truly change one’s life are the people that are present! Really present. Not many in the older generation will say the Beatles changed my life, or an 80s rock band changed my life, or a current celebrity changed my life. Their influence is like the gossip on the internet. Empty. Here today gone tomorrow. But jesus who came in the flesh and showed us what real love looks like, active, embodied love has eternal influence through and in the bodies of his followers. You want to make a difference in a life. Be present. Jesus is present among us and works through our bodies. Let us show him to the world, by being present. You want to be the light of the world? Stop focusing on how many Facebook friend you have, how many hits you got on your video, or how many followers you have, go out and be present in someone’s life.
- It shows us that there is something physical about our connection with Christ. Every OT testament word which is translated for Worship is a bodily act. Either bowing down, or falling to ones knees, or standing up and singing. There is no worship of God that is not embodied. Worship is not disembodied. It takes action. Movement. This is what can make this form or worship dangerous. When we treat worship more as entertainment. We can have our coffee, sit in our pajamas, pick the time we are ready to worshop, and sit on comfy couches. Worship takes work. It take training. Make sure you do the work. You are not here to be entertained. You are here to be engaged in and with the living God of heaven and earth.
The Word made flesh is an ontological reality (the way things are), and an eschatological reality (the way things will be). In the incarnation we find not only that God reaffirms the goodness of being created in time, in place, and in bodies; we also find that these are God's chosen form of communication. He has communicated to us through the flesh and blood person of Jesus Christ. This is what the Lords supper makes clear every time again. This is what the imagery that we are his body makes clear.
So in becoming human he does not only show us what it means to be human, but he truly enables us to be human. That is the end goal of his incarnation, death and resurrection – perfected and resurrected humanity in time and place with real bodies! Praising God with all their ingenuity, creativity, and imaginations on a new and very physical heavens and earth!
He is the sinless Emmanuel. God in all his limitless ness. Man, in all his God ordained limits. He is God with US! And he is perfecting for himself a new humanity in his image. Only because he was truly God, could he bear our punishment, our sin. Only because of his humanity could he pay for those sins. And show us and restore us to what it means to be human. Because he was a perfect human we can have his live and be clothed in his love – an embodied live, and love which shows itself through our hands, feet, eyes, head. A total love.