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The Word Became Flesh




THE WORD BECAME FLESH

John 1:1-5

Princeton Christian Church                                                          31 December 2023


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Summary: Why was it important for God to become human? And why become a human baby?


“I read the story of a woman who saw her friend at church and then, without thinking, said: “Happy Christmas!” The problem was that it was Easter. So, she quickly corrected herself and said, “I’m sorry. I meant to say, Happy Easter.” Her friend smiled back and said: “Well, you can’t have one without the other.” (Cindy Hess Kasper, Our Daily Bread, 4/8/07)


“Humbly He came… in a manger, born to die. Just a babe… fully human, fully God. The Word made flesh, God’s only Son. Sent to save us… He died on a cross and rose from the grave. All because He loved us.”


That phrase, BORN TO DIE, should catch our attention. You can’t have Easter without Christmas, and you can’t have Christmas without Easter. They are kind of like a matched set. When Jesus was born in the manger, He was literally “born to die.” That’s why He came.


Rarely will you hear a Christmas sermon on the first chapter of the Gospel of John. And, of course, this isn’t a Christmas sermon. There is nothing in the Gospel of John about shepherds, wise men, or angels. And there’s no mention of Mary and Joseph and the manger. There’s no Nativity Scene at all!!!


But the first chapter of John explains WHY we have Christmas. It explains why the birth of Christ matters:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the WORD WAS GOD.” (John 1:1).

The entire Gospel of John is dedicated to helping us understand that one concept: Jesus IS God.


Now, the other Gospels point to that too. For example, the Gospel of Matthew 1:23 tells us that the angel declared:

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which means GOD WITH US.”

But John comes out and clearly says: “The Word (Jesus), the Logos, was God.” John was telling us that THIS IS IMPORTANT… HEAR THIS CAREFULLY! It is almost as though he is shouting that message to us.


But WHY is it important?? Well, there are a couple of reasons that come to mind and that we can investigate.


The first is that the idea of God is an abstract concept. When we think of God, we sometimes have this fuzzy, unclear image of what God is like.


ILLUS: A Sunday School teacher told of a time when she asked the children in her class: “What does God look like? One child said, “He’s a human being with heart, feet, eyes like fire, and He shampoos his hair every day.” A boy stated, “He looks like my daddy. He wears a jumpsuit on weekends and has a bald head.” One of the girls said, “I think God has nice eyes. He wears a very pretty robe, and He has white hair.” Another child said, “I think He’s an old man with a long, gray beard. And He sits on a throne like a king and drinks all the Dr. Pepper He wants.” Still, another child thought, “He looks like whatever you want Him to look like.” (Calvary Temple in Compton, CA)


Just like those children, we, as adults, even have a hard time grasping WHAT God is really like. But with Jesus, it’s different. And why is that?


Because… well… Jesus was God in the flesh. Everything about Jesus tells us what God is like. Everything Jesus said, every healing He did, every kindness He showed… all of that tells us what God is like.


ILLUS: A famous scientist in the 1960s named Oppenheimer once said, "The best way to send an idea is to wrap it up in a person." In other words, Ideas are abstract… but people aren’t.


So, what does “abstract” mean? Abstract = existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence. Nothing we can see with our eyes or feel with our hands. For example, love is abstract.


Ideas can be hard to understand, but you can talk to people and see how they live out the concepts they believe in.


In Jesus, we see THE IDEA of God wrapped up in a child.

Jesus was and is (literally) God in the flesh.

And even when Jesus was born - as a baby in a manger – that part of His story tells us a couple of things about God.


In fact, it tells us two crucial aspects of Jesus' ministry we might miss if we didn’t have the story of Jesus in the manger.


The 1st thing Jesus’ birth teaches us is that:

he was willing to be approachable

Have you ever noticed what happens when a mother brings her baby to church? Everybody wants to touch that child and maybe hold it in their arms. They’ll make strange faces at it and make noises they wouldn’t think of making around grown adults. Why do they do that? Because the child doesn’t turn them away or make fun of them. Babies are “approachable.”


And during His ministry, Jesus was like that… he was approachable. And that’s the way His ministry was. Jesus wanted to be approachable. At one point, He said, “Come to me (come to me) all who labor and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28


The 2nd thing we can learn from Jesus’ birth is that:

He was willing to be vulnerable

To be vulnerable means being susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.


There’s probably nothing more vulnerable than a baby - they have hands and feet but don’t know how to use them. They can’t defend themselves. They’re easily hurt.


And, you know, when Jesus was a baby, that was perhaps the most vulnerable He ever was, That is, until He allowed Himself to be crucified on the cross. That was the ultimate in allowing yourself to be susceptible to physical attack or harm.


You see, Jesus was God in the flesh. He was God telling us that He cared enough for us that, like a child, He was willing to be approachable and vulnerable… because He loved us.


Jesus WAS God - BUT HE UNDRESSED Himself to come to earth.  


In today’s society, when news of a baby is on the way, someone decides to host a shower to provide gifts of all the things a new baby requires.


But have you read anywhere in Scripture that Mary’s friends hosted a baby shower for her baby? No, of course not. There was no baby shower given to Mary before her baby was born. She didn’t have a little “onesie” or even a diaper for Jesus to wear, so she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes (strips of cloth) because that’s all she had! And so, Jesus (in essence) came into our world… as a baby, just as we did – in His birthday suit.


But why on earth would He do that? Why would God “undress” – Why would he remove His Godhood?


The Apostle Paul explains it clearly to us in Philippians 2:6-8 in this way: “Though he was in the form of God, (Jesus) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”


In essence (Philippians 2 is telling us), God “emptied Himself” - He became flesh - so He could die on the cross.

Why? Well, follow me here: The Bible teaches us that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.


ILLUS: To give a visual perspective on this… have you ever accidentally left a loaf of bread out exposed for an extended period of time? What does that loaf look like after that time? It’s all green. It’s moldy and disgusting. All you can do is pick it up and carry it over to the trash bin.


That is what our sins do to our lives. Our sin makes us disgusting in God’s presence. That’s why, as long as our sins are not removed, we won’t be allowed to enter into heaven and be in God’s presence.

A year or so ago, the news covered a school that did an experiment with bread. Back in November (2019) a couple of teachers in Idaho performed an experiment for their students. They took five slices of white bread (one of which was left untouched and immediately zipped into a plastic bag: the control slice). The other 3 were handled by all 17 students plus both instructors, who were in various states of cleanliness – hands were dirty, or they had touched something that might cause an unhealthy situation.


One slice was handled by the class without washing their hands.


 Another was passed from student to student after everybody had used hand sanitizer.


The fourth slice was handled by the class after they’d washed their hands with soap and water. Each slice was placed in a plastic bag, labeled, and hung on the classroom wall.


Two weeks went by. The control slice looked relatively normal, as did the one that had been handled by the students after they washed their hands with soap and water. But the slice handled by those who used hand sanitizer looked bad… and the one where no one washed or sanitized was disgusting. (https://nypost.com/2019/12/18/disgusting-classroom-experiment-proves-you-really-should-wash-your-hands/)


Why did the slice that students handled, who hadn’t washed their hands look so terrible? Because EVERYBODY has germs on their bodies.


And what Scripture tells us is that EVERYBODY has a spiritual form of germs… it is called sin. And everything we touch becomes so gross to God that nothing we offer Him is acceptable – unless we’re washed first.


What can wash away our sins? REPEAT -What can wash away our sins? Some of you immediately, in your head, started to sing, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus,” didn’t you?


Well, throughout the Old Testament, God taught His people that the only payment that could be made to cover their sins was the blood of a flawless sacrifice. An animal had to die in their place to bring forgiveness.


The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death. If the blood of pure sacrifice is not available to cover our sins, we will DIE in our sins!!! So, the only way for us to avoid dying for our sins is that something or someone has to die in our place.


And so, the Law of Moses repeatedly called for the blood of animals. Thousands of animals were sacrificed every year so the blood of those animals could die in the place of people whose guilt would bring God’s wrath.


But now, in reality, we know that the blood of animals really didn’t fix the problem or eradicate sin. Those animals hadn’t volunteered to die in someone else’s place. They were forced to make that sacrifice.


So, what was really necessary for the sacrifice? It was necessary for a PERFECT SOMEONE, not something who would willingly die for everyone else’s sins.


But no mortal man who was sinless enough to die in their place could be found.


In Isaiah 59, we’re told about God’s dilemma:


“(God) saw that there was no one; He was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.” Isaiah 59:16-17

You see, God saw the problem. God would now work His plan, which was there, as John tells us, was there from the Beginning.


No one else could save us; God Himself would save us. God’s plan was to step down from heaven… and bring us salvation.


But now, there’s a problem here. Yes, God was the only one who was righteous enough to offer Himself as a substitute - a pure sacrifice – for our sins.


But the problem was this: God is IMMORTAL. You know what that means? He can’t die. God couldn’t just step down out of heaven and become our sacrifice for sins because being IMMORTAL meant He couldn’t die.


But now, mortals - CAN die. The problem, of course, is that there has never been a human being who was ever righteous enough to step into that position. All of mankind has “germs.”


Not one of us has ever been pure enough to die for our OWN sins… let alone yours or those of anyone else. As Isaiah 64:6 says, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” They are of very little worth.


Now, I may be a pretty nice guy. You can put any person you know in that statement. Some people may agree with that. Don’t you think I’m a nice guy? Of course, I am! So, do you think I could die in your place? No?


Why not? That’s right because I’m as tainted by sin in my life as you are in yours.


But God had a plan. When Jesus was born, He was born to be human (He was the child of Mary), BUT He was also born to be GOD (He was born “of the Holy Spirit”). So, in that one mortal body, Jesus was both fully human and fully God.


Why did He need to be fully human? The purpose for Him to be fully human was so He could die. And He was fully God… so He could be sinless and pure enough to be our perfect sacrifice.


Now, that’s great theology. But there’s a problem with great theology. It can be cold and heartless and help explain the world around us… but means nothing to us personally. If all you believed about what I just explained was that it was great theology… then that’s all it will ever be – theology.


But for God, it was way more than a theological exercise. What I just explained to you was WHAT God did, but it doesn’t tell us why He did it.


Just a couple chapters later in John, we read this: “For God so LOVED the world that He gave His only begotten Son, (so) that whosoever should believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16


God stepped out of heaven, stripped off His Godhood, and allowed Himself to be born as a human baby and then later in life be rejected, beaten, and crucified because He loved us. And there – that is the purpose! If He hadn’t loved us, this all would mean nothing.


CLOSE: I want to close with the true story of a missionary team who had been invited to Russia to teach Christianity. As you may know, Russia is not a Christian nation. It was Christmastime, and the missionaries were at an orphanage. They shared the story of Christ's birth, and everyone (the children and the staff) listened in amazement. None of the kids or the staff had ever heard it before.


One of the missionaries wrote later: "We gave the children some materials and instructed them to create the manger scene that they had just heard about. All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat; he looked to be about 6 years old and had just finished his project. But the startled missionary saw not one but 2 babies in the manger. He called for a translator to ask why.


Looking at his completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the story… until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad-lib his own ending to the story. "He said, 'And when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mama and no papa, so I don't have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. So, I got into the manger with Jesus, and then Jesus looked at me, and he told me I could stay with him forever. '"Putting his hand over his face, Misha's head dropped to the table, and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. But his were not tears of sadness but of joy: he had found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him. He had found Someone who would stay with him forever." (Story related by Stan Cole)


For those who truly understand the coming of Jesus Christ as Savior… it’s about one very important thing. It’s about a God who cared enough to do what was necessary so we could stay with Him forever.


INVITATION

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