Incarnation: Fully God, Fully Man, Wholly Confusing.
The incarnation is headache inducing. How do you get your mind wrapped around the clear assertion of Scripture that Jesus is both fully God (John 1:1ff; 20:28; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1, etc.) and fully man (Matt. 1:1ff; Luke 1:26-2:52; 1 John 4:2; 2 John 7; etc.)?
I thought about going several different directions with the sermon:
(1) How God becoming flesh means that there is nothing wrong or evil with our flesh or “fleshly” things like sex; a good prelude to Porn Sunday next week to be sure.
(2) How God becoming flesh guards against seeing Jesus as Superman (Heb. 2:17-18)
(3) How God becoming flesh guarantees our salvation. For only flesh can suffer death yet only God can be a perfect sacrifice and impute a perfect record of living to His people.
Instead, I have been haunted by who Jesus attracted as God in the flesh. I mean why did hookers, traitors, crooks, terrorists and hillbillies want to be around Jesus but don’t want to be around Christians?
Maybe it was because He was God and flesh–the divine and creation at peace–that attracted those who knew they were broken. Rudolf Bultmann wrote that we all have a “faint remembrance of Eden.” Maybe Jesus’ presence simply evoked that memory? So, why isn’t the church giving off that vibe?
Dr. Tim Keller, in his new book “The Prodigal God”, writes, “Jesus’ teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.”
So, what do we do? The author of Hebrews had something to say about Jesus that might help us out. Hebrews 2:5-18 reads:
5 Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 6 It has been testified somewhere,
“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.”
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying,
“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
13 And again,
“I will put my trust in him.”
“Behold, I and the children God has given me.”
14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Notice a couple of things about those verses, first of all, Jesus was willing to suffer for others and I think, at some level, they picked up on that. I think most of the “dregs of society” know that the majority of Christians will not even inconvenience themselves for others. That has to change. I hope that through activities like the Father’s Table Ministry, where we help feed the homeless, and Free Market, where we give our extra away to those in need, will begin to change that image in our area.
Also, notice how Jesus is referred to as a brother. Do you think of him that way?
Back to Tim Keller’s new book. It is a work solely focused on the so-called Parable of the Prodigal Son. If you don’t know the story then it goes like this:
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
Keller argues, quite persuasively, that the parable is not about the wild son who blows all of his cash on booze and chicks in clear heels with stage names but it is really about the older son. You see, in the day and age when Jesus taught, the elder son received 2/3 of the father’s estate while the younger only received 1/3. When the younger soon took his cash and headed to Vegas, everything left belonged to the elder brother. When the younger kid returned home (probably with bags under eyes, tats on his arms and a nasty case of who knows what) the father uses the elder son’s inheritance to throw a party for the younger brother. So, you may sympathize with the older brother but think about this for a moment. The father obviously loves the younger brother but it was considered shameful for a father to go after such an ingrate but it would have been fine for the older brother to have sought him out and brought him home. Sure, it would have cost him more of his inheritance but does that really matter? Not if the older brother truly loves the father (and the younger son) and wants the best for both.
Today, too many churches are filled with older brothers more interested in following rules and looking down on others than loving their father for who he is and showing it by seeking out wayward brothers even if it really costs us. Luckily, Jesus is the good older brother who does seek out the lost and paid a great, great cost for it. Jesus does so because he loves the father and he loves us. God is our true father and he is a good father. Jesus is our prophet, priest and king but he is also our older brother–our good older brother who picks us up out of the filth, carries us home and gladly joins the party celebrating our return. Out of pure gratitude, we should live this way as well.
In order to be missionaries in Portsmouth we must be the message of Jesus, live out the story of Jesus and bring that peace of reconciliation between God and creation. May God make it so and may the revolution begin.