What Jesus' Incarnation Shows Us About What It Means to Be a Human

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14) is arguably the most profound and exciting statement in the Bible. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, but the good news goes much farther than that. Salvation is not merely the removal of our sins – it is a new creation, a radical transformation of what it means to be human.

You might even say that Christmas is not only about Jesus; it’s ultimately about you!

True humanity

When John wrote that Jesus became flesh and lived among us, he used an image the Jews were familiar with. The word translated as “dwelled” comes from root words meaning “to pitch a tent.” It referred to God’s dwelling among the Israelites in the tabernacle, a special tent that was the precursor to the temple of Solomon (see Exodus 40:34-38). The difference is that the Word – Jesus – didn’t just dwell among humanity, he became human.

As the perfect human, Jesus is the definition of everything it means to be human. Whatever Jesus is, that is what he has made humanity to be in him. This tells you at least three things about yourself.

It tells you that God is on your side. Jesus is God’s beloved Son in whom he is well pleased (Matthew 17:5). Because your life is in Jesus, and he is your life (Colossians 3:4), you share in his personal relationship with the Father. With him and in him, you are God’s beloved child.

It tells you that your sins have been removed. Isaiah 59:2 declares that sin separates people from God. When Jesus came, he took that sin upon himself so that we could be reconciled to God. Paul even says that Jesus became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) so that we could be completely reconciled to God.

It tells you that nothing stands between you and God. John 1:14 says that Jesus “came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus restored us to God through grace, without our input or help. We were reconciled even when we were still sinners, Paul wrote in Romans 5:10. It’s a gift.

Jesus restored us to God by taking our broken human condition on himself. He became the representative and the substitute for all of humanity. Paul sums this up in 2 Corinthians 8:9: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” As a human, Jesus brings humanity into perfect relationship with God. As God, he brings God into perfect relationship with humanity.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:4-5, “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” This is reconciliation at its finest. Paul went one step further in verse 6, saying, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” We are not waiting for God to accept us. Because of Christ, he has already accepted us, and this never depended on us.

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), Jesus illustrates God’s unconditional love for wayward humanity. In this parable the betrayed father represents God and the prodigal son represents all of us. The Father never rejected us – we rejected the Father. He eagerly awaits our repentance (turning our hearts back to him) and is watching for the first sign of our return. As soon as he sees us, he runs down the road to embrace us, honor us, and declare us his beloved child.

To be fully human is to know God

Jesus is the perfect revelation of the Father. As Ray Anderson put it in his book The Shape of Practical Theology, “To know Jesus is to be confronted with the reality of God himself” (page 18). There is no difference between the heart of Jesus and the heart of the Father. Jesus said he was one with the Father (John 10:30). To know Jesus is to know God.

In coming to be with us, Jesus showed us the Father’s love and compassion toward us. He “pitched his tent” among us because he wants to be with us and to identify with us. God didn’t turn his back on sinners – he came to live among them, to love them and to heal them.

God created us to be in relationship with him. This was the plan from the foundation of the earth. Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:4-10:

In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ… And he made known to us the mystery of his will…to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

Jesus was never “plan B.” It was always God’s plan and purpose to be in loving communion with the people he created in his image.

When “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” he didn’t come to live in a tent or a temple. He came to live in us. He bound himself to us, taking up our cause, bearing and vanquishing our sinfulness. He called us his friends and made us his brothers and sisters, bringing us with him into the Father’s embrace.

As Anderson said: Jesus confronts us with the reality of God. The Spirit leads us to Jesus, and when we know Jesus, we know the Father. When we are in communion with Jesus, we are in communion with the Father and with the Spirit.

To be fully human is to know God – to know he loves us, wants us, and will never let us go. Jesus heals and restores our full humanity, becoming for us the image of God into which we were created.

Jesus shows us what life is all about. It’s about walking in communion with God – being in relationship with the One who created us, loves us, dwells among and in us, and adopts us as his own precious children.

Jesus shows us what it means to be truly human. He became a human for us, for our benefit. The story of his birth is about you.


A Fresh Look at Nothing

“[Jesus], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-7).

When Paul says that the Son of God made himself “nothing,” he is not implying that humans are nothing. Paul is using a figure of speech to express that Jesus humbled himself in love in order to serve us. We should follow his example by humbling ourselves in order to love and serve one another.

Theologian Gordon Fee summarizes it this way:

In Christ Jesus God has shown his true nature; this is what it means for Christ to be “equal with God” — to pour himself out for the sake of others and to do so by taking the role of a slave. Hereby he not only reveals the character of God but also reveals what it means for us to be created in God’s image. To bear his likeness and have his “mindset.” It means taking the role of the slave for the sake of others. (Gordon Fee, Philippians, InterVarsity Press, 1999)

Rick Shallenberger
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