Incarnation

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Incarnation

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Incarnation

When Adam and Eve sinned against God, they began to experience the consequence of their disobedience. They began to die. Their personality began to deteriorate. They became subject to God's punishment. And yet in the midst of condemnation and punishment God gave Adam and Eve a wonderful promise and the promise was that some day the paradise they had lost would be regained. And the satanic serpent that had brought about their downfall would himself be defeated. This wonderful promise of God is found in Genesis 3 at verse 15. God says I will put enmity between you that is the serpent and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring. The offspring of the woman will crush the serpents head. Even though the serpent would strike at this child's heel.

That prophesy, that promise, took centuries to find fulfillment but it was brought to pass by the Providence and the power of God. And the story of how Genesis 3:15 became a reality is found in the gospel according to Matthew Chapter 1 starting at Verse 18. There are two stories of the birth of Jesus in the New Testament. One of these is found in the opening chapter of The Gospel According to Luke. Luke of course was a physician by profession and he retells his story from the viewpoint of the Virgin Mary. It is likely that Mary would have confided in Luke as a physician and that Luke, with her permission and with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit would then put that story into the opening chapters of his gospel.

In the Book of Matthew, However, we have the story of the birth of Jesus. From the viewpoint not of Mary but of Joseph. Listen to it this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, before they lived as husband and wife, She was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her betrothed husband engaged to be married was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to terminate the arrangement to divorce her quietly, but after he had considered this an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said Joseph Son of David do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife. Why? Because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet. The Virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel which means God is with us. When Joseph woke up he did with the Angel of the Lord had commanded him took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union no sexual relation with her until she gave birth to a son. And then he gave him the name Jesus.

Now there's a short story but it has a very long meaning. Let me share with you some of the things that I find in this passage by way of Christian teaching. Right off let me say that what we have here is a miracle. It's not a mere story. It is not a parable. It is certainly not a fable. It is presented as history, involving real people, Joseph and Mary and a real pregnancy by the power of the Holy Spirit and the real birth of a genuine child named Jesus. And all of this happens not in the usual way of procreation and conception and birth but by a miracle a direct divine intervention on the part of God. We speak of the virgin birth of Christ. It was not the birth of Christ that was virgin but his conception, and this by the power of the Holy Spirit. Now what's the meaning of it? Is this given in the Bible as a biological curiosity? Not at all. This is the Bible's way of describing the fact that when the savior was to come into the world he would not be the product of the procreative power of Joseph, lest mankind should take the credit for producing a savior, God wanted to make it clear that the Savior was not the result of man's power but of God's gift. So the story of the virgin birth of Christ is really the dramatization the acting out in the history of that tremendous statement in John 3:16 that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life. The Savior is not man's achievement but God's gift. What we do is not earn our salvation but receive it from the hand of God.

Notice also, that the child who is born to be our savior has a real human nature. He is conceived. He lives within the womb of the Virgin Mary for the full term of nine months and then is born as a child is recognized as a son. The New Testament tells us of his humanity. He is not only born but he grows, and he learns, and he walks, and he rests, and he gets tired like we get tired, and he can fall asleep as we fall asleep. He eats bread and broiled fish and a honeycomb. He drinks water by Jacob's well. He knows the pain of hunger and thirst in the wilderness. He can go to a wedding feast and Cana of Galilee and has a very social being had a good time. He can go to the funeral of his dear friend Lazarus and outside his gravestone he can weep tears of sorrow. He knows what it's like to face temptation. Being tempted or the devil in the wilderness. He knows what it's like to be deserted by one's friends, betrayed by a trusted follower, falsely accused. He knows all about Joy, all about sorrow, all about pain. He knows the meaning of suffering. He knows what it is for his body to be broken in his blood to be shed. He knows what it is to give up the spirit and die. He has a real human nature and we've got to take that seriously. We need to understand that to assure ourselves that Jesus understands us. In some religions people are discouraged from going directly to God in prayer, because the argument is God is too big, God is too severe, God is too distant and you have to approach him through all sorts of mediators up the ladder until you finally reach heaven because God is too big and important to be concerned with the likes of you. What is slander. What a distortion. What a misrepresentation of the character of God. We can go directly to God. He understands what it's all about. He has visited this planet in the person of Jesus Christ. He knows all about hunger. He knows about thirst, he knows about joy, He knows about sorrow, He knows about temptation, He knows about suffering and therefore he can understand or he can sympathize with us and we should be confident of this when we turn to him. Our God is not remote Our God has come to us nearer than hands and feet closer to us than breathing, bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh. He became man. We have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. We need to remember that, it will give us comfort when we need it most.

But the child who is born of Mary after the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit is not only a man just like us in every respect except sin. He is also God manifest in the flesh. I hope it hasn't escaped your attention that he is known as Emmanuel which means, God has come down from heaven to be with us. Jesus Christ is truly human. He is also truly divine. He is Emmanuel. He is God, living with us, in the closest possible way. Here is a close encounter of the best kind. Emmanuel, God with us.

Jesus is aware of being a man. Jesus is aware of being God manifest in the flesh. That's how come he has such great moral authority. He can interpret the law of the Old Testament. He can say with a very authority of God in the Old Testament murder was forbidden, but I say to you that even if you've never wielded a switchblade if you hate in your heart you have committed murder. In the Old Testament and the law of God it was said You shall not commit adultery. But I tell you that if you look upon a woman with sexual desire which is not your wife, you have already committed adultery with her in your heart. Only God could reinterpret the moral law that way. And Jesus did it. The people of Jesus day said, who can forgive sins but only God? And yet Jesus dared to forgive sin. He was aware of being God. And that is why he could do the work that only God could do. Sin is breaking God's law and only the god whose law we have broken can forgive us. And yet Jesus dares to forgive, telling us that he regards himself as being God. God alone is the author of life and God alone raises the dead. And yet this is precisely what Jesus did in his days on earth and what he promises to do on the last day at the end of human history. The resurrection of the dead like the creation of life is only God's work and Jesus does it. Moreover only God can give final judgment. You and I can look at outward actions, only God probes the thoughts and the intense of the human heart. Only God knows motives which are hidden in the secret places of the soul. Jesus knows what is in our hearts. He knows our motives as well as our actions. Therefore he can judge us righteously. He can do what only God can do because he himself is God. True humanity, true divinity.

One final word. He has a saving mission. He has come into the world to save his people from their sins. That is the meaning of the name Jesus, it means Jehovah saves. God saves. This is a faithful saying worthy of all acceptation that Christ Jesus came into the world, sinners to save. Not merely to teach parables wonderful as they are, not merely to heal sickness great as that work of mercy is, but to save sinners. How Jesus saves us from our sins will be the subject of our next in the series of studies.

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  • Allen Decker