I love the incarnation! To think that the immortal, all-powerful, all-knowing God who created the entire cosmos in its vastness loves our broken species enough to take it upon Himself and walk alongside us on our tiny planet blows my mind! Those who came before Jesus’ incarnation were at a disadvantage. Though God spoke “through the prophets to our ancestors in many times and many ways” (Hebrews 1:1), they did not have the advantage of actually having God-in-the-Flesh to look at. We are so privileged today! We have the stories of Jesus’ life contained in Scripture as an example to us of how God intends us to live, and we have access to the Holy Spirit, who enables us to be restored to God’s image and actually live out that life.
Today’s Epistle Reading from the Ashes to Fire devotional highlights another important aspect of the incarnation. The full reading is Hebrews 2:11-18, but I want to focus in on verse 17: “Therefore, he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way. This was so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, in order to wipe away the sins of the people.” Did you get that? Jesus had to be made like us so that He could become merciful. The Message paraphrase puts verses 17-18 like this: “That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of the people’s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed.”
This passage highlights an aspect of the incarnation that might not be as obvious to us as the aspect of revealing God to humanity. Yes, in the incarnation, God is made known to humanity in the clearest possible way that humanity can understand. And yes, in the incarnation, we can look at Jesus and see what it means to live life as a creature created in God’s image. But even further, the incarnation enabled God to fully connect with the plight of humanity. Through Jesus’ sufferings, the brokenness of humanity was fully experienced by God. As such, we can be assured that God truly does understand all of our troubles, and we can be confident in God’s offer of redemption and restoration.
The incarnation is not just Jesus’ calling, though. Prior to sharing with the Philippians the Christ hymn, which contains a beautiful explanation of the incarnation, Paul tells them, “Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5). Just as Jesus took upon Himself humanity that we might know God better through Him, so too are we called to reach out to the broken world, that they might come to know God through Christ being revealed in us.
Being incarnational is about so much more than inviting people to church. Rather than expect them to come to where we are, we need to go to where they are. We need to experience life as they experience it. We need to walk alongside them in their context. As we do so, we will come to know their situations better, and we will be better equipped to represent Christ to them.
During this season leading up to Easter, let us commit ourselves to being Christ to the broken world. May we represent God in all of our interactions with others, and may we seek out others in their brokenness, just as Christ sought us out.