The years between the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament are what scholars call the Intertestamental period. A period where there were no prophecies, no visions from God, and no miracles: a period of silence from the Heavens that lasted up to roughly around 400 years. And then, one silent night, the Heavens broke its silence; Emmanuel, the promised Savior, was born in a lowly manger as a helpless child. The Creator of the heavens and the earth chose to be a son of a carpenter and a virgin woman to carry out His plan of redeeming mankind from the penalty of sin. Here’s everything you need to know about the fabled incarnation.
What is Incarnation?
The word Incarnation came from the Latin word incarnatus, which means “to make flesh.” The word pertains to the action of Jesus, the Son of God, taking on human flesh and thus becoming one of His creations.
He had to accept that He would be limited, as any of us are. His journey of becoming a man started in a basement of a house. His birth was witnessed not by angels, but by a flock of animals and a band of shepherds, from overseeing His creation from His throne in heaven to being nurtured by a young mother. The God whose hands orchestrate everything is now being held in the arms of a carpenter from a poverty-stricken, backwater village. The All-powerful God is now helpless and needs attention from a pair of frail human beings.
This deliberate act of God to become one of His creations demonstrates how personal He is. Not only does He understand His creation from above His throne, He willingly subjected Himself to the struggles a human feels. He grew up in an insignificant village in a country ruled by a mighty empire. He has to work as a carpenter, the craft passed down to Him by his human father, to earn a living. To get from one place to another, He has to walk the sun-scorched desert of Israel. All these limitations, Jesus willingly accepted so that He can fully understand and relate to us, as Hebrews 2:18 stated, “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those are being tempted.”
Why is There a Need for the Incarnation?
We may think that the Incarnation is just a simple transformation of God into a human being with a flick of a finger, but that is not the case. He decided to come here as an infant and experience all the stages of life as we all did while growing up. He will crawl to the ground before learning how to walk. The word that caused creation in motion will utter the mumbles and groans of a newborn.. Jesus willingly accepted all these humbling experiences just to redeem all of us from the penalty of sin. In the Incarnation, Jesus emptied Himself out, and He allowed Himself to be stripped of His glory. He allowed Himself to be nothing so that we can gain everything.
Can’t He just simply wipe out all our sins? Can’t He just tell us that we are forgiven and exempt from the penalty of sin? Can’t God simply just grant us eternal life? You may have asked yourself these questions more than a few times in your life. And they are all valid questions. After all, God is good, right? But we neglect the fact that He is also a just God. We cannot simply plead for God’s goodness without remembering God’s justice. And this is one of the reasons why the Incarnation must take place.
Jesus bridged the gap between God and mankind. His fully and truly human and divine nature is why His death became an acceptable sacrifice to pay for the penalty of our sins. Romans 6:23 clearly states that the “wages of our sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” The sacrifices made in the Old Testament, where a blameless animal, whether a calf or a sheep, is killed and offered in place of a guilty sinner, foreshadows what Jesus will do on the cross of Calvary. No amount of works of mankind will satisfy the demand of the penalty for sin, and that is why Jesus had to give Himself up. On the cross, God’s mercy and justice were displayed. And it is true, that it wasn’t the nails that held Him to the cross, it was love.
Jesus showed us the unchanging nature of God, his loving, caring, and nurturing character displayed throughout the Old Testament. When He decided to take on human flesh, He was indirectly saying He was more than willing to take our side; he was ready to be on our side. His love that caused Him to part the Red Sea is also the same love that caused Him to raise the dead to life. In the Incarnation, He displayed that He was willing to physically travel distances, and be weary from the journey, just to free a slave from oppression. The God who provided the manna in the desert is the same God in the flesh who turned water into wine.
All these are because of His love for us.
Jesus is the long-awaited fulfillment of the covenant of God’s love to His people. In Him, the nation walking in the darkness of oppression and sin found a beacon of hope, a light that will lead them back to Him. He painted a picture of God willing to listen to humans’ rants and petty arguments, just like He conversed with the woman at the well. He revealed that God feels pain, just like when Jesus wept bitterly at the news of Lazarus’s passing. He knew what it felt to be rejected and left behind, just like the night Judas betrayed Him and all of the disciples He was with for the last three years of His life deserted Him when He was arrested.
What can we learn from this?
Let me share with you a few of the many implications we might draw from the Incarnation. First, God displayed His willingness to involve Himself with our predicaments. He was willing to get His hands dirty, just like He did when He first formed us from dirt and breathed life into us. He is not a distant God who watches from afar. In the Incarnation, He displayed His longing to be near to His creation, to show us how He loves us, even to the point of being one of us.
Another lesson that we can see is that God is willing to do whatever it takes to show us that He cares, even at the cost of giving us Jesus, His only Son, to die the death that we should’ve died, so that we can be reconciled to Him. If we cannot call this love then I don’t know what is.
And if we truly love Him and appreciate what He has done for us, even though we are unworthy of it, it is only fitting that we strive to live a life that pleases Him. We should do whatever it takes, empowered by His grace and by His Spirit, to make each breathing moment an offering that glorifies Him. As it is written in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” His incarnation is just the first step in God’s precious plan of redeeming mankind, and yes the gift of salvation that He is offering is free, but no it is not cheap.
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