The Power of Flesh

My mind is weighty with new old truth. Does the gospel ever just hit you fresh and fiery like the first time again? It’s like digging a well you’ve dug for years when suddenly, fresh, cool water streams in, turning dry cracked earth back into fertile life-bearing soil.

Incarnation: a word that typically brings to mind tunes from Nacho Libre and stirs up Chipotle cravings (don’t ask why my brain is wired this way- just roll with it). Today, incarnation has begun to take on flesh. Today, incarnation does something in the pit of my belly that stirs my heart and mind.

God made man. Then God becomes man. He wraps the fullness of himself in the flesh of the beings He created.

Incarnation: All God packaged as all man.

(“PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWERS . . . itty bitty living space.” —-Name that movie— )

I’m reading about this truth in Knowing God while my four-month-old stirs next to me in her bed. Looking at her tiny frame; she’s so helpless. So completely dependent on me for all things. She has no life apart from me—I am her source. Me. Broken, weak, grumpy, tired, sinful . . . This is what she looks to for all of her needs: a faulty finite source.

God made baby. Not just human with frailness; but human in most dependent form; baby with symbiotic relational need. Giving his life wasn’t just in death—it was in life—all of him subject to all of our vulgar, lazy, selfish ways. All of God subject to the failings of human parenthood. All of God bowed low in tiny babe so that we might look up into hugeness of grace.

Then I remember the story that has always troubled me—Jesus, the tween, hangs out at the temple while mom and dad look frantically for him. In my brain with all of its preconceptions this feels wrong, disrespectful somehow. Come on, tween Jesus! Don’t freak out your mama!

Yet again I am missing something. Jesus, culturally and religiously, stands on the precipice of manhood. His parents have proudly discussed and prepared him for the coming days of accountability. Soon he will be responsible for the state of his soul.

(On a side note: can you imagine being Mary in this moment? Not only are you dealing with the terror of a missing child for THREE days, you are also keenly aware of the fact that you have misplaced THE MESSIAH! Talk about some serious mom guilt!)

Jesus has lived as a child in the home of Mary and Joseph for twelve years. Now, as religious society begins to accept his manhood, he reveals his true nature. He will be considered a man—responsible for the commandments and the state of his soul; he is showing them that he is God—The Word, taking on the weight of all souls.

As happens repeatedly throughout Jesus’ life, he tells people directly why he is there (he is there to do his Father’s business), and they don’t understand. How can they? We have the full picture, literally spelled out before us in a variety of editions, and we struggle to comprehend. This however, is not the part that causes my breath to catch today.

“Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.” (Luke 2:51 NIV; emphasis mine).

This idea that Jesus in his unfathomable power became so indescribably weak is not a new revelation. Today, though. Today the reality of the incarnation changes everything. To love like Jesus means to live outside of myself. When everything in me revolts against the very real, everyday need to submit myself to mundane service. While dishes and diapers do not compare to saving the world, Jesus taking on baby form pushes me to stop grumbling. Who am I to believe I should be placed on a pedestal for all of my “many” acts of service?

My prayer is that as I grow to comprehend this mystery I will accept suffering, humility, submission, even pain, as gift—that in these moments I will hear shouts of deliverance resonating in place of my groaning.


Featured photo by Liane Metzler on Unsplash
“Knowing God” by JI Packer


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