The Miracle of the Ages
Text: Luke 1; John 1
Proposition: The miracle of all ages was the incarnation of God, for from this comes all the possibility of redemption. Discovering this miracle leads the discovery of eternal life.
Introduction: The Christmas decorations are up and one of the most popular of them all is the manger scene. It’s on cards, on lawns, on coffee tables and in church foyers. The scene it depicts is the humble circumstances in the birth of Jesus yet what can escape our notice is that this event is the greatest miracle of all ages. Upon it every major doctrine in the Christian faith hangs. Without the intent and existence of the incarnation there is no justification, redemption, salvation, adoption, sanctification nor even election. In light of this, how strange it is for us that prophecy has been so silent about the incarnation. There is the veiled reference in Genesis 3:15 of how the seed of the woman would crush the head of Satan. There is the difficult reference in Isaiah 7 of a virgin giving birth to son, and the son’s name to be called Immanuel. But even here there was no direct revealing of the idea of God taking on humanity. Then we look at the actual records of the Gospels, the accounts of the birth of Christ, and even here we see a great mystery. Consider the following comparisons in the Gospels:
Matthew Mark Luke John
Genealogy of Jesus 1:1-17 X 3:23-38 X
Gabriel announces John's birth X X 1: 1-25 X
Gabriel visits Mary X X 1: 26-38 X
Mary visits Elizabeth X X 1: 39-56 X
Birth of John the Baptist X X 1: 57-80 X
Angel appears to Joseph in a dream 1:18-25 X X X
Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem 1: 25 X 2: 1-7 X
Shepherds visit Jesus X X 2: 8-20 X
There seems to be a great silence in all the gospel writers except Luke. Mark and John don’t record a single historic event regarding the details of His birth. The greatest miracle of all ages, the incarnation of God, seems to be like the writer of the carol suggests, “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see”. Let’s take a closer look at the wonder of the incarnation through words that don’t refer to mangers, shepherds or heralding angels. J. .I. Packer in his book, “Knowing God”, spent a whole chapter on this subject, I’m going to borrow from his headings but the content will be my own. Consider now the immensity of the incarnation: Turn with me to John 1: 1- 4, 14.
I. The Eternity of Christ Is Encapsulated Into Humanity.
“In the beginning was the Word…”, the term ‘Word’ refers to Jesus, but why does John use this term? Well let’s think for a moment about how we use it. Do you remember when you had infants in your home, as they became toddlers you eagerly looked to the day when they would say their first word. It would be the first time they were communicating to us in a way we understand. It would be the first time they would be reflecting to us what their thoughts were. William Hendriksen, in his commentary on John, suggests that the term ‘word’ refers to these two distinct purposes: 1. It gives expression to inner thought; 2. It reveals this thought to others. This is what Jesus, The Word, did in giving expression to the inner thoughts of the Father and then revealing those thoughts to mankind. There’s a passage in Proverbs that personifies wisdom, but it’s also a close portrayal of what John 1:1 looked like. Proverbs 8:27-30 says, “When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth, when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him”. It was this eternity of the Word that created and considered Mary, agreed with the Father’s will, and in the movement of the Holy Spirit upon Mary, encapsulated Jesus Christ into humanity in her womb.
II. The Personhood of Jesus Is Embodied in Humanity.
“In the beginning was the Word… and the Word was with God…”. What does it mean, “the Word was with God”? I like how the American Standard Revised version translates this: “and the Word was face to face with God”. This speaks of the closest possible fellowship that God could ever have with another. The person of Jesus is distinguished from the person of the Father in this verse. It is this person of Christ, pre-existent before creation, Who had a depth of relationship with the Father that exceeds our understanding. Do you remember the words of Jesus in His priestly prayer of John 17:5, 24, “And now glorify Thou Me together with Thyself Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was”…and “…for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world”. The Word was with the Father in a depth of relationship that was so close they functioned as One God. And yet, in the miracle of the ages, the Word, the person of Jesus, left this proximity of fellowship to be embodied in humanity.
III. The Deity of Jesus Entered Into the Limits of Humanity.
“And the Word was God.” Literally it reads, “And God was the Word”, emphasizing the deity of the Word, Jesus Christ. Jesus existed separate from the Father, had close communion with Him and yet was fully God Himself. This truth is foundational for what is about to be said. Consider verses 3,4. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Because Jesus is fully God He has the capability of creation, all things are created by Him and thus are owned by Him. Note that this also infers that Jesus is not created, but exists apart from creation. It is the deity of Jesus, Who He is as God, that enables Him to give life. At least three times in the scriptures Jesus raised people from the dead. And each time it was but a sign that He is the great giver of life, not just physical life but also eternal spiritual life. Previously Jesus painted the truth of Who God is through the panorama of creation and with the broad brushes of prophetic revelation. By the incarnation into humanity He would do the same thing, except now He was the paint. The fullness of all Who God is entered into the limits of humanity.
IV. The Sonship of Jesus Entered Into Flesh, Bringing Sonship.
“And the word became flesh and dwelt among us”, John 1:14. All the images of the baby in the manger are sourced in this statement. But as great a mystery as God entering into humanity is, the purpose of it is even greater. There’s an intriguing title that was given to describe Jesus, it’s become so well known we hardly think of it. The title is ‘The Son of God’, but what does it mean, what does it refer to? It can’t refer to the fact of creation in that the Father created the Son, because Jesus is God and is not created. It can’t refer to the fact of the incarnation, because Jesus was the Son of God before the incarnation (Hebrews 1). Jesus is the Son of God in the way that He shares in the full essence of the Father and then reflects that full essence in righteousness, love, wisdom and, in the words of John 1:14, “full of grace and truth.” “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Col. 1: 15)
The incarnation was the Triune God sending Himself in the person of His Son to step into the hurtling path of Adam, to be struck down by the curse of death that was upon Adam and to be the new Adam. Romans 5:19; “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One, the many will be made righteous.” Add this to John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” That’s the great wonder of the incarnation, the Sonship which Christ has brought to us and caused to exist in us. “And I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them. (Jn 17:26)
Let us sum up the wonder of the Incarnation with these words written in about 400AD, the Athanasian Creed : “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man…perfect God, and perfect man…who although he be God and man ; yet he is not two, but one Christ; one not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by taking of the manhood into God.”