Unexpected Beginnings Part I

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

John 1: 14 NLT

If this series is about discovering God by surprise, then it is useful to look at the greatest surprise, one which is at the heart of Christianity: God willingly became human. Creator became creation. The Almighty stepped into human history not as a glorious King or as an honoured warrior but as a human and a baby at that.

As I write this, my wife and I are expecting our first child. We have spent the past seven months or so reading everything we can get our hands on that says something about baby and child development. It’s fascinating stuff but it all boils down to one simple fact: humans are fragile from conception and helpless at birth.

Without a nice, healthy womb lining to settle into, a newly fertilised egg is doomed to extinction. Hundreds of internal and external factors can spell the end to this fragile life. Even then, once the baby is strong enough to be born, disease, neglect or accident can mean that this young life ends. Babies are entirely dependent on their parents for food, protection and warmth. It is an incredibly humble form of human life.

And yet, Jesus, the Word, the One who existed from the beginning and through whom all things were created (John 1: 1-3) chose this to be the way He would come to earth. He chose to begin His time on earth as someone who was entirely reliant on the imperfect love of imperfect parents who lived in an imperfect world. The Bread of Life chose to humble Himself to the point of relying on a human woman for food and sustenance.

This messes with our heads. For hundreds of years, theologians and philosophers have tried to make sense of this, even at the cost of reducing it to something they can take in. Maybe these verses didn’t quite mean what they said. Maybe, instead of God becoming human, He just chose to put His godly “substance” (whatever that is) inside a human body then the body would just be a kind of shell. Yes, maybe Jesus was a bit like a hermit crab, choosing the human shell when it suited Him and casting it off when it might make things a bit difficult, like when He died.

Maybe, suggested some with a bit less faith, Jesus wasn’t God at all. Maybe He was just a really good guy with some super cool skills: like walking on water, multiplying food and raising the odd person from the dead. If this is true, though, it makes Jesus look a bit silly when He does things like claim to be God (Matthew 25: 31-46; John 6: 35, 51; 8: 12, 58; 14: 9 etc).

No, these verses mean what they say. God became human, with all the limitations that suggests. Next week, we will look at that in more detail.

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