“The stark actuality of Christ’s humanity, His flesh and blood and bone, guarantees us that we have God among us. If that humanity were in any sense unreal, God would be unreal for us in Him. The full measure of Christ’s humanity is the full measure of God’s reality for us, God’s actuality to us, in fact the measure of God’s love for us.” 1
What is the Incarnation?
Incarnation is the theological term for the coming of Jesus Christ into our world. God becomes a man, and takes on human flesh.
Jesus came to the earth to fulfill the eternal dream of God: that we may be adopted as His sons and daughters. 2
Understanding the incarnation is essential, therefore, to grasping the whole scope of the Gospel.
Here is how I would define the incarnation. The incarnation essentially means that God has reached us. He has met us in our fallen, alienated state, and He has reconciled us back to Himself. He has come, God of God, and man of man in order that He might establish a new covenant between God and the human race.
We hid in the garden, but the eternal dream of the Trinity has never changed. Jesus came to find us: to lay hold of the human race, and to bring the human race back to God.
The wonderful truth of the incarnation is this: that God has reached us.
Sadly, we misunderstand the incarnation. The western church has lost its grip on this fundamental truth of the Gospel.
Instead of God reaching us in Christ, we’ve created a vision of the incarnation in which Jesus comes as a sort of “Super-God” to show off. He does miracles, raises from the dead, and lives a perfect life. We look at these facts and in trying to grasp them we undermine the reality of Jesus’ humanity.
Jesus didn’t come to show off His divinity. Jesus came to lay hold of the human race, and reconcile us back to God. 3
In other words, we thought He came as Superman when in reality He came as Clark Kent!
RoboCop, and Superman are both movies used as analogies for Christ’s coming and living on this earth. 4 Both movies ultimately fail in understanding the true heart of the incarnation. In both scenarios the hero, a type of Christ, comes with superhuman abilities. He is different than us, and in every way better than us.
Both movies undermine the beauty of the incarnation. Jesus does not come and live within our existence as an “other” or as some kind of super-powered human. Jesus comes and lives within our human existence as one of us. Jesus lived within our limitations as a human.
Listen to how Robert Capon puts it: “Indeed, the Superman analogy is a perfect illustration of what Jesus is not. He is not from another planet but from this one. He does not have, in His human nature, powers beyond those of mortal men; instead, He is just as mortal as we are. .. Above all, He is born among us as Clark Kent; He lives among us as Clark Kent; He dies as Clark Kent; and He comes forth from the tomb as Clark Kent – not as some alien hotshot in blue tights who, at the crucial moment, junks His Clark Kentness in favor of a snappier, nonhuman style of being.” 5
Jesus did not come to us as Superman, He came to us as Clark Kent. He came and lived within our humanity in order that God might reach us within the depths of our fallenness.
The Unassumed is the Unredeemed
One of the early church Fathers, St. Gregory of Nazianzen, said it like this: “The unassumed, is the unredeemed.” 6
Jesus must reach us in order to fully redeem us. He must reach us from within our brokenness and alienation from God.
God came in Christ to undo the work of Adam as both Son of Adam and Son of God.
In other words Jesus, as both God and man, lays hold of the human race in order to reconcile all humanity back to God. He reached us in the pit of our despair and uncertainty, in order that He might include us into the very life of the Trinity.
Jesus is the God-man: the true God of God, and man of man. He is fully God and fully man, He fully embraces both sides of the eternal covenant.
Here’s the point: If Jesus didn’t come and embrace the very depths of our humanity, then Jesus failed to reach us. If Jesus failed to reach us, He failed to save us.
The incarnation means God has reached us.
Jesus lived within our existence. He has felt what we feel, and has faced the pains we have faced. Jesus felt rejection, He felt fear, He lived within our Adamic existence and He experienced humanity to the fullest degree.
Which means something truly wonderful: God understands you!
He has been where you have been. He has felt the pains you have felt. God understands you, He has reached you, and He knows what it’s like to be in your shoes.
Jesus did not come as superman nor is He some sort of RoboCop. Jesus came as a real flesh and bone human being. He lived within our humanity, and from within that humanity He reconciled us back to God.
Jesus has reached us!
- T.F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ – Page 185 ↩
- See Romans 8:29, and Ephesians 1:5 ↩
- 2 Corinthians 5:19 ↩
- The original RoboCop was an analogy for Christ, and Superman has often been used to describe the incarnation. The most recent Superman movie even paid a pastor to write sermons based on the movie. ↩
- Robert Farrar Capon, Parables of Kingdom, Grace, and Judgement ↩
- Letter to Cledonius ↩