By Ong Keng Ho
You might not agree, but one of the hardest things the gospel confronts me with is actually not so much the gospel miracles of Jesus, or God dying on the Cross. It is not even God rising from the dead, but Jesus becoming man.
“The Word became flesh” (John 1:14). Think on it: the second person of the triune almighty God appearing on earth as a helpless babe. He was unable to do more than lie there, stare, wriggle and gurgle unintelligible noises. He needed to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child.
We can reconcile God enduring torture, pain and suffering. We can relate to the Lord rising from the dead just as much as he was sovereign over the power of nature in performing his miracles on earth. The almighty power we can grasp. But “the all-powerful” giving up his power and becoming helpless? The Creator becomes the created? It is mind-boggling. It is altogether a different realm of humbling. It is not about changing form from one creature to another.
The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing is as amazing as this truth of Jesus’ incarnation and condescension. Yes, the trinity is mystery itself. But on top of that, in Jesus becoming man, we have the union of the Godhead with manhood. Can you ever get your head around that?
The Word becoming flesh, a real human baby, is unimaginable humiliation on the part of God. The babe ceased not to be God. He was no less God than before. But he had begun to be man. He was not now God minus some elements of his deity, but God plus all that he had made his own by taking manhood to himself.
He who made man was now experiencing what it felt like to be man. He who made the angel who became the devil was now in a state to be tempted by the evil creature. For all intent, the conflict with the devil was for the perfection of his human life. It was so that he was made sin who knew no sin.
This is humiliation in the lowest. It was not only the poor condition he suffered physically and emotionally. “He accepted a dramatic reduction in status, undergoing a demotion and degradation so complete that at last his identity of God was totally obscured. All that could be seen was a man disgraced and damned, his death violent struggles intensified by his terrible sense of alienation from God,” quipped Donald Macleod.
It was a great act of condescension and self-humbling. “He, who had always been God by nature,” writes Paul, “did not cling to his privileges as God’s equal, but stripped Himself of every advantage by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born a man. And, plainly seen as a human being, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, to the point of death, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal” (Philippians 2:6-8). And all this was for our salvation.1
He became a helpless baby, a punching bag, an enemy of sorts, a man of sorrows, a heretic, and a criminal of the worst kind. He was disowned, mocked, spat on, challenged, despised, rejected, afflicted and oppressed. All you ever faced, he faced more. And all the time he opened not his mouth. He was like a lamb led to the slaughter. In quiet and meek condescension, he bore in his body our shame and guilt and nothing of his own.
No one understands you? The risen Jesus does. … And a bruised reed, are you? That he will never break.
The crucial significance of Jesus becoming man lies in the steps that led the God-man to the cross of Calvary. Paul sums it up in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Herein is how we should view God taking manhood by the Son, not simply as a marvel of nature, but rather as a wonder of grace.2
Knowing how low an extent Jesus stooped, we should never doubt his immense love for us in whatever seemingly depressing situation we find ourselves. For in whatever stage of life or whatever helpless situation you might be in, he can relate to you even in depths of darkness you might not ever know. No one understands you? The risen Jesus does. Remember He went through it all, and more. And a bruised reed, are you? That he will never break. But instead the warmth of his hug awaits you.
1 J.I. Packer, Knowing God