I'm on holidays - so this week I'm simul-blogging the King's English here.
Tom Torrance was an army chaplain in World War Two. He claimed that the number one question soldiers asked him was this, “Is God really like Jesus Christ?”
With bullets flying and lives on the line, this is what they needed to know. Why? Because if God is like Jesus then, ultimately, it’s going to be ok.
For this reason, it was Torrance’s greatest joy to point to verse after verse in the bible that said: Yes, God is exactly like Jesus.
One of the places he opened up was John chapter 1 and verse 1. It’s a phrase we thought about yesterday:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Before there was anything else, God was there with His Word - and His Word could also be called “God.” God has always had a divine Communication.
Words communicate. They express. They reveal. It follows that the Word is the Expression of God. Everything God wants to say is wrapped up in this Person called “the Word.”
Who is this Word? Verse 14 declares:
The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)
The Word is the Christmas baby! Born of Mary and laid in a manger, the Word is Jesus. Or maybe it’s better to say that Jesus is the Word.
Jesus did not begin His existence in Mary’s womb. As He stood before the Jews of the first century He declared, “Before Abraham was, I AM!” (John 8:56) He has always existed along with His Father and the Holy Spirit. He has always been God’s Word.
To know what God is like, we must see Jesus. Everything we hear Jesus saying and everything we see Him doing, reveals God the Father. As Jesus draws near, stoops to our level, loves, heals, touches, teaches, suffers, bleeds and dies for us, Jesus shows us God.
Lord Byron once said, “If God is not like Jesus Christ, then God ought to be like Jesus Christ.” But God is exactly like Jesus- because Jesus is the Word.
I like to put it this way: Jesus is God-sized. And God is Jesus-shaped.
Firstly, Jesus is entirely God-sized. He is the eternal Word of God, there in the beginning, the Craftsman of all creation. You cannot think too highly of Jesus!
And God is entirely Jesus-shaped. In the words of one archbishop “God is Christ-like and in Him there is no un-Christ-likeness at all!” Any God we imagine who is not like Jesus, is not God.
This is what it means to say that Jesus is the Word. He is the Explanation of God.
What does it mean that He was “made flesh”?
If someone has just been particularly callous we might ask them, “Where’s your humanity?” When we do so, we’re trying to tap into their sympathy. We want to stir up love for their “fellow man”. Here “humanity” is synonymous with “compassion.” A person without “humanity” is a person without a heart.
Does God have sympathy for humankind? Does He love us – or have a heart? Yes. Because, incredibly, He has humanity!
The Word “was made flesh.” The eternal Son of God became man. A member of the Trinity became a member of the human race!
And our verse really wants to drive that point home, so it uses a word that’s shockingly base. “Flesh”.
In latin it’s the word “carnis”. It’s the source of the word ‘incarnation’. And, less impressively, the origin of chilli con carne. A.k.a. chilli with meat! That’s the sense of the word ‘flesh’ here. The Word became meat.
Ask a biologist to describe humanity and they might use the phrase ‘homo sapien’.
Ask a philosopher to describe humanity and they might say ‘a rational animal’.
Ask a butcher to describe humanity and they might say ‘carnis’, ‘flesh’, meat!
When Jesus came it was not in a dreamy visitation. He didn’t float 6 inches off the ground or don a halo. He didn’t descend like a deep sea diver, wearing a man-suit. The Word did not ‘put on’ flesh, ‘enter’ flesh, ‘borrow’ flesh, ‘hide behind’ flesh ‘get diluted’ in flesh. The Word was made flesh.
God has humanity. And His name is Jesus.
If a king remains on the throne and never climbs down, that’s one kind of greatness. But there’s another kind too. It’s the greatness of the King who climbs down, who humbles Himself and who condescends to join His people. And what about a King who descends even further – becoming a slave, serving His people in poverty, suffering, fighting, bleeding and dying for them. That’s another kind of greatness entirely.
Think of an adult who speaks to a toddler while towering over them. And now picture one who stoops down to their level. Or imagine a homeless man, drunk and lying in the gutter. One ‘helper’ gives advice from on high. Another lies down in the gutter, speaking face to face. This is the gutter-level glory of the Word made flesh.
He became what we are, so that we might become what He is. He came into our situation to invite us into His situation. He entered our family – the human race – so that we can enter His Family – the Trinity! He, the Son of God, became flesh, so that we who are flesh might become sons and daughters of God.