Jesus Christ is God and Man. The Trinity is hidden in unapproachable light; the Incarnation is an impossible act of the God who does the impossible; perhaps the supreme impossible act of this God. It is at the very heart of our faith and means not only the conception in the womb of the virgin but the entire human life lived by our Lord, His crucifixion, and His glorification. The verse at the heart of the Incarnation is this:
Though being in very nature God, He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but He emptied Himself and took the nature of a slave, appearing in human likeness. Being found in appearance as a man, He became obedient to the death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God highly exalted Him and gave Him that Name which is above all names, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (From Philippians chapter 2).
We have looked at the Trinity here and here in part so that we may better be awestruck by the glory and impossibility of the Incarnation upon which our faith rests – the Incarnation which is our faith. As with the Trinity, we must go forward with care, barefoot, with the utmost of reverence, for this is holy mystery, and yet go forward we must, for God has called us, as He called Moses long ago. When one thinks about how the Eternal God, in whom is all perfection, infinite, unique, holy, almighty, entered into the womb of a virgin it staggers belief. It is right for us to be still before this and to recognize that when someone looks at us and says, “It’s impossible for God to be a man!” it means they have some idea of what we are saying, which is much better than when people simply hear the words and don’t even begin to think about the fact that they mean something. Let us pray for men to be shocked by the Incarnation. Let us pray ourselves to be shocked by the Incarnation – for it is equivalent to praying to know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
God Himself came in the likeness of sinful flesh. The One so holy that the seraphim veil their eyes and feet in His presence entered into a virgin’s womb and took on the likeness of sinful flesh. He is like us in all ways except sin. He is really man. That is how He undid our sin. As an infant, and then a boy, and then a man, suffering all the ailments and ills and struggles and temptations that human beings suffer, Jesus fulfilled the law. Every law. A man did this. Basically, the Eternal God, in whom there are no parts or divisions and who never changes, took on a broken human nature and entered into the womb of a girl. God experienced all the things that babies experience. He came through a birth canal, He needed his mother’s milk, He couldn’t speak or talk, etc. He grew and matured and gained knowledge and understanding. He suffered and felt, like all human beings do. Though in very nature He was God, He was touched with the feeling of our infirmities – physical and emotional. He was tempted and tried in “all things just as we are,” meaning, of course, that He must have suffered all the brokenness and discordance of fallen human nature, yet He did not sin! Not once.
“He emptied Himself.” That’s what this means. God triumphed as a man. It was in His human nature that Jesus resisted temptation. It was in His human nature that Jesus kept every law. He lived completely and totally as a man, taking the nature of a slave and living within the constraints of that nature. He was indwelt by the Holy Spirit as human beings can be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. “After this, He was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit.” “Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, stood up and began to read, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me for He has anointed Me…’” Evidently, the Spirit came upon Him at times more in certain ways that He did at other times. Something, obviously, that can only be as upon a man, for in the Divine Nature the Spirit and the Father and the Son always dwell perfectly within one another and there can be no change. However, as a man, in time, there was change. I’m sure that Jesus suffered the fluctuations and ups and downs of human life, physically, emotionally, and spiritually that afflicts our fallen human nature (of course, obviously excluding those that are due entirely to personal sin and sinful, for He who knew no sin, is pure and undefiled, was made to be sin). At times the Presence of God came down upon Him more powerfully and immediately than at other times. He always lived in the Glory, always lived in the Will, and He always knew this, but He did not always feel it – how else could He have been tempted and tried in all things just as we are? How great of a comfort a true understanding of the Incarnation brings! There is nothing we go through that Jesus did not. He suffered as man, and He triumphed as man.
We must always remember, also, that the union of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, all living and working in one another, was never broken and can never be broken. Even on Calvary, the same Divine Person who suffered on the cross, a man forsaken of His God, was with and in the Father as throughout all eternity, perfectly one with Him in all that He did. We can see something of the mystery of the Trinity working even here, for Jesus says, “When the Son of Man is lifted up, you will know that I am and that the Father lives and works in Me.”
By His complete fulfillment of the law, Jesus’ manhood won a perfect righteousness – God’s righteousness, for the Person who won it is Divine. As a man, Jesus deserved the blessing of God, which was all He sought and desired. “One thing I ask of YHWH, that I shall seek, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord forever and gaze upon His beauty.” Working in all the struggle and pain and temptation and weakness and frailty of fallen human nature, Jesus fulfilled the purpose for which man had been created and from which Adam fell. He became the perfect man, “for though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience because of what He suffered.” Perfections and victories, trophies, which neither God in His own nature can hold nor could have man had He remained unfallen, Jesus won. So it is that the sin of Adam is made to be bliss, for in all this sin, suffering, and pain there is good which could never otherwise have been.
Jesus became not a man, but The Man, the only Man, the representative Man, the Man in whom are all men, and, thus, the cross. On the cross, He suffered, the Righteous Man condemned as guilty by His God. This is truly and completely terrible. To Jesus, the favor of His God – for He was really, truly man – was sufficient bliss to infinitely outweigh all physical or emotional sufferings. In the midst of the most terrible suffering that ever befell a man, scourged and crucified, with nails through His hands and feet, having been betrayed in the cruelest manner possible – with a kiss – by one of His closest followers, forsaken by all His followers, even the favored three who had been present when He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead and on the Mount of Transfiguration, rejected by the people to whom He had come to bring salvation, He was forsaken, abandoned, by the God He had always called His, the God whose every law He had obeyed, who He had always loved and still loved with all His mind, heart, soul, and strength. How terrible is the suffering of the innocent inflicted by the One whose favor truly matters – whose pleasure is the goal and prize of that innocent. An innocent man may suffer boldly before men, assured of his innocence, but for a righteous Man to suffer before His God – the judgment of men does not matter; the judgment of God matters more than anything! And He suffered guilt. He was not guilty. There was not one speck of sin in His soul. His love for His God and Father never wavered. Yet, He actually suffered actual guilt. The sin and guilt He suffered was not His, but all the sufferings of the guilty, all that affliction and pain of gnawing guilt, was His as He became sin. So abhorable, for He hated sin with all His righteous being, both as Man and as a Divine Person. The Son was one with His Father in the judgment of the Man – the righteous Man, the ultimate Man, who because of His very righteousness, His very completeness as Man, was also the Man who would stand for sinners, who would take sinners into Himself, who would be one with sinners. Could there be anything more detestable to one perfectly righteous than to not only be counted with sinners – the foul thing, to him more foul than the worst criminals and cannibals are to us – but actually joined to them? And yet, He remained righteous. More, the Person who suffered there, abandoned and forsaken, was always and eternally united to the God who forsook and crushed Him perfectly – perfectly one with that God. And, so, He undid our sin.
Then, He was buried. He really died and was buried. He rose from the dead in glory. A man won the right to sit at the right hand of God – that is, as you can see in this article here the right to be God, for He, by virtue of His Person, is God the Son. “Therefore, God also highly exalted Him and gave Him [Christ the Man] the Name above all names, before which every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim that He is Lord – YHWH, I AM WHO I AM – to the glory of God the Father.” He will never die again, and as Man He sovereignly reigns over all things, King of Heaven and of Earth. He intercedes for His people, seated as King by His own rights and merit as Man and gives them His righteousness – a righteousness of Man and of God Himself. Jesus Christ is Lord!
Copyright 2017 Raina Nightingale
Some relevant Bible passages:
Hebrews 2:17-18, 3:14-16, 5:1-10
I’ll add more later.