He Was Coming Into the World – Advent 2019
Sunday 4 – He Made His Home Among Us
“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.” (1)
With this verse, the apostle John comes back to the main subject of his prologue: the incarnation.
Earlier in his text, he talked about the divine side of the matter: God became human. (See the first post of this series.)
Now he talks about the other aspect: God became human. God had put on humanity, that which makes us men and women (apart from sin, of course ). That is fascinating! And some biblical authors made comments in their writings that shed light on the matter.
Talking about the Lord Jesus, the apostle Paul wrote:
“Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (3)
And the author of the Letter to the Hebrews added:
“We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.” (4)
Theologians discuss – and will keep on discussing for a long time – about all the theological implications of those passages. But for myself, I’m touched by a very simple truth: God was with us, physically.
Immanuel – “God With Us”
“Joseph, son of David, the angel said, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (5)
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).” (6)
It seems to me that God always wanted to be with us.
At the very beginning, after creation, he walked about in the garden when the cool evening breezes were blowing. (7) I like to think that he certainly had other conversations with Adam and Eve before the fateful day when our first parents disobeyed him.
Later, when he liberated the people of Israel from the land of Egypt, he gave instructions to Moses in order to build a sanctuary where he would dwell among his people. (8) But because of the sin of the people, the access to God was difficult: they couldn’t see him and they had to go through a whole system of rules in order to purify themselves and appease that holy God.
It was different with Jesus... He made his home among us... He was made in every respect like us...
He was conceived in the womb of a woman and was formed there. Mary bore him for nine months. He was born like all babies. Mary had to change his diapers and feed him. He grew up like all children. Joseph taught him his trade of carpentry. And we could go on listing all the characteristics of the life of a young Jew at that time: Jesus experienced it all.
A God That They Could Touch
“The one [...] whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. [...] We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (9)
The apostle John heard Jesus speak. He saw him teach and do miracles. He touched him... And he has seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son...
Glory of God: The glory that God shows [...] is the reality of his active presence, linked with the quality of his acts themselves. In Old Testament times this ‘glory’ took the physical form of light... (10)
In daily life, light didn’t irradiate from the person of Jesus, like the face of Moses after he had spent 40 days in the presence of God to receive the Law from him. (11) In fact, there was “nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him”, according to Isaiah the prophet. (12) So how come John have seen the glory of God in him?
The apostle saw the glory of God in the miracles that Jesus did. (13) Those extraordinary acts that happened in everyday life, out of the blue: ordinary water changed into good wine to please the guests of a wedding banquet; a paralysed man who, after a brief conversation with Jesus, just gets up and goes home; a young boy’s breakfast that is given to a numerous crowd and feeds it to the fullest; a blindman from birth who washes his eyes at the pool and then can see. (14) The simple fact of being with Jesus meant being a witness to those fantastic things happening.
Jesus himself said that Lazarus’s sickness happened “so that the Son of God will receive glory” from it, and that he brought glory to the Father by completing the work he gave him to do. (15) That “work” brought him to the cross, where he died because of our sins. That, too, manifested the glory of the Father’s one and only Son, because of his unfailing love and faithfulness.
Unfailing love and faithfulness. That was God’s glory shown by the life of Jesus. Whoever came to meet Jesus – whoever heard him, saw him, touched him – had access to that unfailing love and faithfulness.
In Jesus, God was with us. We were able to hear him, to see him, to touch him.
“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. […] Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (16)
On this fourth Sunday of Advent 2019,
may the Holy Spirit make us grasp the reality
of the presence of Jesus with us;
may we realize
that his humanity
allows our humanity to touch him,
and to receive his unfailing love
Yes, come soon, Lord Jesus!
Sincerely in Jesus,
Eleazar, the Bellicose Monk
Unless specified otherwise, all Bible excerpts are from The Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013).
(1) The Gospel according to the apostle John, chapter 1, verse 14.
(2) See, for example, the Letter to the Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 15; the First letter from the apostle Peter, chapter 2, verses 21 to 23; and the First letter from the apostle John, chapter 3, verse 5.
(3) The Letter from the apostle Paul to the Philippians, chapter 2, verses 6 and 7; The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016).
(4) The Letter to the Hebrews, chapter 2, verses 16 to 18.
(5) The Gospel according to the apostle Matthew, chapter 1, last part of verse 20 and verse 21.
(6) The Book of the prophet Isaiah, chapter 7, verse 14.
(7) The Book of Genesis, chapter 3, verse 8.
(8) See the Book of Exodus, chapter 25, verse 8; and chapter 29, verses 43 to 46.
(9) The First letter from the apostle John, chapter 1, verses 1 to 3.
(10) Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New dictionary of theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 271.
(11) See the Book of Exodus, chapter 34; more specifically verse 29.
(12) The Book of the prophet Isaiah, chapter 53, verse 2.
(13) See the Gospel according to John, chapter 2, verse 11.
(14) The Gospel according to John, respectively chapter 2, verses 1 to 12; chapter 5, verses 1 to 9; chapter 6, verses 1 to 13; and chapter 9, verses 1 to 7.
(15) The Gospel according to John, respectively chapter 11, verse 4; and chapter 17, verse 4.
(16) The Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 28, last part of verse 18 and last part of verse 20.