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2022-12-11 The Word Became Flesh

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 THE WORD BECAME FLESH (John 1:14) December 11, 2022 Read John 1:14. This is one of the most astonishing statements ever made in human history. God became one of us. In the OT, God met His people in the tabernacle or temple. But now, the Word, the 2nd person of the Trinity, has come "to dwell (tabernacle) among us." John's Jewish readers would immediately get the analogy. God has come to rescue fallen humanity. Everyone longs for God. Philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote: "The center of me is always and eternally a terrible pain . . . a searching for something beyond what the world contains, something transfigured and infinite. The beatific vision - God. I do not find it, I do not think it is to be found - but the love of it is my life.... It is the actual spring of life within me." So much truth there, yet he missed the Answer - the Word who became flesh. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God; He alone can lead us back to God. Heb 1:1-2: "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son." So complete is this revelation that Jesus later says to Philip, Jn 14:9b: "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." John's whole purpose is to help us believe in Jesus who is the source of eternal life. So, who is this Jesus? I. Jesus is Truly Man "And the Word became flesh". The Word, who already was at the beginning, who pre-existed the creation of the universe, who had no beginning - that One took on flesh. Not just a body, but all that it means to be human. The One who created all things, "and without him was not any thing made that was made" - that One has now made for Himself a human body and human nature into which He was born in Bethlehem and which He will inhabit forever. We will contemplate this for eternity and never quite get to the bottom of it. This is a nuanced fulfillment of Isa 9:6, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given." As a man He was born, but as the Son of God, He was given. His humanity begins at birth, thus is born. His divine nature has existed forever, thus is given. Paul sees the same truth in Gal 4:4: "But when the fulness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman." The eternal Son of God is given in a birth which added humanity to His deity. This is the incredible love of God - becoming us in order to deliver us. This fulfills Isa 7:14b: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." When Joseph found Mary pregnant and set out to break his engagement, an angel informed him that she was not only faithful, but was the virgin chosen to bear "Immanuel (which means, God with us)" (Mt 1:23). Not just God with us for a short visit, a stopover. "Became" = permanent arrangement. No going back. This is God with us permanently, experiencing all it means to be human, so he could succeed where the first Adam failed, so He could die in our place, to be raised again to rule forever! Today, most people stumble over the deity of JC; in His time, they stumbled over His humanity. The Jews were raised on the shema, Deut 6:4: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one" God becoming man was inconceivable. So, many erroneous teachings arose concerning the person of Christ. The most persistent was Docetism, from the Greek δοκεω = to seem or to appear. This heresy taught Jesus only seemed to be a man. It came in two main forms. One claimed Jesus only seemed to have a human body, but it was an apparition. Others claimed Jesus did have a true human body, but did not have a human spirit, that his divine spirit (Christ) united with a human body at the time of Jesus' baptism, then left Him before His crucifixion. Greeks would have accepted a Christ who seemed human but really wasn't. To them the spirit is all good; the body is all evil. God in a real body was inconceivable. John had an opponent in Ephesus, Cerinthus -- a Docetist, which horrified John. Church father, Eusebius, said John once entered a public bath. Finding Cerinthus there, he left, urging others, "Let us flee, lest the bath fall in, as long as Cerinthus, that enemy of truth, is within." To counter this, John doesn't simply say the Word became man, or the Word took on a body - rather he says, "The Word became flesh" - a strong, almost crude way of referring to the totality of human nature. John had seen Jesus up close and personal. He knew. He was truly human. He needed food, water and sleep. He had human soulish emotions. He wept over the loss of a friend; over Israel's rejection, and the agonies of Gethsemane. Jesus was truly man. But why would Christ take on flesh? Why this unprecedented personal humiliation? Bc it was the only way to save mankind! As sinners, we cannot save ourselves. Only God can. But repairing the relationship must come from the human side. Only God could pay the infinite price we owe; only man could receive the penalty of death. The God-man was the only answer. Jesus never could have been the perfect lamb of God without being truly human. He could never have died for us without being human. He would never have risen again had he not been truly man. He did it all for love of a fallen, rebellious, underserving humanity. Rom 5:8 answers why: "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." It was all for love! C. S. Lewis rightly refers to the incarnation as the Grand Miracle. And Dorothy Sayers observes that, "from the beginning of time until now it is the only thing which has ever really happened ... We may call this doctrine exhilarating or we may call it devastating, we may call it revelation or we may call it rubbish ... but if we call it dull then what in heaven's name is worthy to be called exciting?" And all for love. To deny it; reject it; mock it or refuse it; is to sin against love itself. And that is rightfully unforgiveable. II. Jesus is Truly God John's already made that point in vv. 1-2. But he makes it again in a unique way in this verse. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." "Dwelt" literally means "to live in a tent." So, a temporary visit? No. Leon Morris notes by Jesus' time the word meant to settle down permanently, as in Rev 12:12, where John urges, "Rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them!" What's more permanent than heaven? It's used in II Cor 5:1 where earthly bodies are referred to as tents. The emphasis is on Jesus being truly human. But John's meaning is deeper than that. The Greek word is σκηνω, also translated "tabernacled"; it unquestionably refers back to the tabernacle built by Israel during Moses' time. The Hebrew word for tabernacle is miskan - note the s,k,n main consonants, just like in σκηνω. Further, the cloud representing God's presence, was said to dwell (sakan) in the tabernacle as "the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle" (Ex 40:34). That was the same glory of the Lord Moses met on Mt. Sinai (Ex 24:16) and which later filled Solomon's temple (I Kings 8:11). Jewish people later referred to this as the Shekinah -- dwelling glory - a fearsome visible manifestation of Yahweh. The glory later departed the temple as described in Ezekiel 8-11. But now, John is saying, the Word is the ultimate tabernacle; He is dwelling among us, and we see in Him all the glory of Yahweh - glory as of the only Son from the Father. The glory is back! The symbol has been replaced by the reality. Jesus of Nazareth is the shekinah glory returned, not as a cloud, but in the form of a God-man. "We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father." No wonder He is the "only" son - unique - one of a kind. Believers become children of God as in v. 12, but Christ is and always has been the eternal Son of the eternal Father. Now, John says, "We beheld his glory". How? Well, when the NT speaks of the glory of Christ, it is speaking of many ways He is demonstrated to be God - the ultimate shekinah glory. His glory was revealed in His unprecedented sinless life. His glory was revealed in His miracles. For example, after changing water to wine Jn 2:11: "This first of his signs Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory." Or even more revealing, just prior to raising Laz, Jesus said to Martha, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" And then - she did! Earlier, Jesus' glory shone thru brighter than the sun on the Mt of Transfiguration. But all those paled next to the ultimate display of God's glory -- at the cross. Throughout John, Jesus keeps saying His hour has not yet come But Jn 17:1: As he left for the cross, He prayed, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you." How could the horror of the cross be glorious? Here's why. It's because that was where the justice, yet love of God were both on full display. Justice required the payment for sin that He made there. If you deny His atoning work there, you miss the glory of God. But that was also the place where God's love was most displayed. Why? Because it wasn't you and me paying the rightly deserved price for our sin; it was the spotless Lamb of God taking our place - because that is how much God loves. There's God's glory - unrelenting justice but unspeakable love. A display of God's glory as never seen before or since. John saw it firsthand. And the resurrection was the icing on the cake. But the true glory was the cross; the resurrection simply ratified that it really was God taking our place. Think of the journey we've been on. God told Israel when He delivered them from Egypt, Ex 6:7a: "I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God." God ratified that promise by dwelling with them in the tabernacle. They eventually rejected God and the glory departed. But then, "The word became flesh and tabernacled among us." Why? To bring us back to God. Jn 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." And the end result for all who believe: Rev 21:3: "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God." This is why the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, so that we might dwell with Him forever. What a plan -- that could only be accomplished by the God-man, JC. III. Jesus is the Source of Ultimate Truth John says Jesus was "full of grace and truth." Jesus told Pilate: Jn 18:37: "For this purpose I was born and this purpose I have come into the world - to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." It is His word that is truth. Jn 8:31-32: "So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32) and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Free from what? From the power of sin. Free from guilt. Free from judgment. The truth Jesus brought is the way back to God goes thru Him. They are linked like Father and Son - bc they are Father and Son. Jesus is the source of ultimate truth bc He reveals the Father. Jn 14:6: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except thru me." The truth Jesus came to share is that He is the one and only way to God. Jn 5:23b-24: "Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him [Deny the deity of Christ and you've signed your own death certificate]. 24) Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word [my truth - not your truth, my truth] and believes him who sent me has eternal life." And if you don't? Jn 3:36: "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him." The stakes couldn't be higher. II Jn 9: "Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son." That's the truth the God-man came to deliver -all roads to the Father go through Him. Eternal life and death are at stake. IV. Jesus is the Source of Saving Grace We're out of time, but what is grace? It is God's unmerited, undeserved, unearned favor. Dr. Harry Ironside wrote, "Grace is the very opposite of merit. . . . Grace is not only undeserved favor, but it is favor shown to the one who has deserved the very opposite." God says it this way: Rom 5:8: "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Grace is God bringing rebellious people back to Him in Christ who cannot and will not come on their own. The Word became flesh, died in our place and brought us back to God. That's the message of this amazing verse. Conc - What does it mean that "The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us?" Here's what. Christianity in its infancy was not called a religion. It was the non-religion. Get this - the first atheists were Christians! People asked early Christians, "Where's your temple?" "We don't have a temple." "But how could that be? Where are your priests?" "We don't have priests." "Well, then, where are your sacrifices?" "We don't have sacrifices." Why? Because Jesus Himself was the temple to end all temples, the priest to end all priests; the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. No one had ever heard of such a thing, so the Romans called them "atheists" because what the Christians were saying about spiritual realities was unique - unclassifiable as a religion - they were the "unreligion" and hence "atheists" to the Romans. They said, "These guys don't have a religion" and they were right. They didn't have a religion; they had a relationship. The God-man is the end of religion - but the beginning of life for all who invite Him in. So, are you stuck in a religion this morning, or are you enthralled with a relationship? Let's pray. 7
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