Incarnation, God Is With Us – Podcast

I was hoping to get this one out by Christmas. But here it is now.

The Good Creation Podcast – Incarnation, God Is With Us

Podcast Script

A very important Christian doctrine that we emphasize this time of year is the doctrine of the Incarnation. 

The word incarnation is a latin word which means the embodiment of a spirit or deity.  

The doctrine states that Jesus of Nazareth, the eternal Second Person of the Trinity, has in time, taken upon himself a complete human nature, by being born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.   It is a mystery that surpasses human understanding, yet it can be described in various ways.  Not fully.  But truly.  

In the words of Augustine, “Christ added to himself that which he was not; he did not lose what he was.”

Because of the work of the Holy Spirit, God the Son became fully human at a particular place, and time, in order to die for the sins of humanity and defeat the dark powers.  The most important dark power to be defeated was death.  A defeat made evident by the power of his resurrection.

Some books in the Bible emphasize this doctrine more than others. Even though the Old Testament doesn’t speak directly about the divinity of the Messiah, there are a few hints.

In a famous passage, that most of us have heard, especially around Christmas time, the prophet Isaiah speaks of the Messiah as Emmanuel, God, with us,

Isaiah 7:14  
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. 

A few chapters later, Isaiah goes on to speak of the Messiah in this way: 

Isaiah 9:6
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Another book in the Old Testament, the book of Daniel, describes the messianic figure this way: as  “one like a son of man.”  Like a human being in other words.  This figure was seen in Isaiah’s vision as being exalted to God’s throne and sharing God’s universal worship. 

Daniel 7:13-14
As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.

Turning to the New Testament the evidence supporting the doctrine of Incarnation is abundant.

We begin in the Gospel according to Matthew.  He quotes that famous Isaiah passage in the first chapter, verse 23. 

Matthew 1:23
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”

In the last chapter of the same Gospel, Matthew quotes Jesus speaking to his own disciples about his divine omnipotence and omnipresence.

Matthew 28:18
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

The disciples of Christ are encouraged in knowing as they carry out their mission, their Lord, by His Spirit, is with them.  

The beginning and the end, what I call the bookends of Matthew is that:  God is with us.  

Now turning to the Gospel According to Luke.  Mary is described as being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit in the event of the virgin conception of Christ.  Many interpreters have seen this overshadowing of Mary as being linguistically the same as when the divine glory overshadowed the tabernacle in Exodus chapter 40 as God descends into it.

Exodus 40:34
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

I need to tell you, this passage is found in the very last paragraph of that great book about the Exodus, the deliverance of God’s people.  That rescue was for the purpose of God dwelling with His people.  

And now, Luke in the first chapter describes that astonishing scene between the angel Gabriel and Mary:

Luke 1:30-35
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.

Or as Matthew and Isaiah say:  he will be “God with us.”

Later on in Luke Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth.  Elizabeth describes Mary as the “mother of my Lord (kyrios).  The word in Greek is kyrios.  The New Testament is written in Greek.   Also a few hundred years earlier, the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek because after the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greek culture spread throughout the Mediterranean world.  And the Jews decided to translate their ancient scriptures that were written in Hebrew into Greek.   It’s called the Septuagint.  In that Greek translation the same word that the Old Testament uses for the sacred name of God. Yahweh, (YHWH) in Hebrew, is translated, Kyrios The English word is Lord.   The same word used here by Elizabeth to describe Mary, as the mother of my Kyrios, my Lord.  

Theologians think that is significant.

Finally, in the three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, they report Jesus’ transfiguration. If you know the story, you’ll remember that Peter, John and James, were on top of a mountain with Jesus, when they saw the appearance of his face change, and his clothes became dazzling white.  Suddenly Jesus was joined by Moses and Elijah. It’s another astonishing scene.  Peter offered to build three holy dwellings, one for Jesus, Moses and Elijah.  But…

Luke 9:34-36 (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8)
While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.

Let’s quickly move on to Paul and John.  Their writings are even more explicit about the status of Jesus as the incarnate Son of God.  

In the Gospel According to John, his matchless beginning states that Jesus is God’s eternal Word, who created everything.

John 1:1-3
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.

Then a few verses later John writes that this personified Word became incarnate and dwelt among humanity

John 1:14
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.

Now finally Paul.  Who speaks of the preexistent Son of God and his mission to become flesh and atone for sin, in Galatians chapter 4 says this:

Galatians 4:4-5
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.

And that great revealing passage in Philippians chapter 2 Paul speaks of the humility of God.

Philippians 2:2-11
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Kyrios, Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

In Jesus God dwelt fully

Colossians 1:19
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
Colossians 1:16
for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.
1 Corinthians 8:6
yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

You need to understand this passage was written by a very Jewish guy.  For Paul to put One God, the Father, and One Lord, Jesus Christ together like that in one proposition is very significant.  

A few decades later in Church history the Church had to face the challenge of the Docetic heresy, which claimed that the divine Jesus only appeared to be human.  He only appeared to die on the cross.  Etc…

On the other end of the Christological spectrum, the Ebionites claimed that Jesus was a mere human being and therefore not God.

More work was done by Church theologians to shore up our understanding of who Jesus was and is. This eventually became what we know as the Nicene Creed.  Something that many of us recite almost every Sunday.  

I want to encourage all of you who call yourselves Christian to remember during this Christmas Season what God has done for us.  And has purposed for all creation. 

By coming to us.  By dwelling in us.  

God is with us.  Immanuel.