He Came in The Flesh – But Why?
He Came in The Flesh—But Why?
The Word became flesh
and dwelt among us.
[JOHN 1, OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRISTMAS DAY]
John opens his account of the Gospel by showing us God’s heart of compassion and love for the sinner.
Our Lord came in the flesh for a reason; there’s Divine intent. He didn’t become flesh just to show he could. Nor did he do it to put us under the Law. We were already under the Law. That’s how we knew our sin—the chief work of the Law is to show sin. For, as the confessions of the Church put it, “the Law always accuses.” But God didn’t come in the flesh just to hammer us harder with the Law.
But he did do it for a reason—he had clear intent. He came in the flesh to dwell among us. He knew our sin, our rebellion, and he wanted to be with us. He knew the afflictions and the pain we bring into the world with our arrogance, and he did not want us to be alone.
He knew that we could not cleanse the sin from our own bodies, we could not heal our own consciences, we could not remove ourselves from the shame, and he wanted to cleanse our bodies, to heal our consciences, and to bring us into honor.
So he came in the flesh, to be with us and take our sin upon his body, take our brokenness into his person, take our shame and have it accounted to his Name—he wanted to be with us in such a way that our suffering was now his.
In The Flesh, Mary’s Little Child
So he became flesh, a little child in the arms of Mary. She knows he became flesh. She fed him, hugged him as he fell asleep, covered him with a blanket on cold nights—she knows that he dwelt with her.
And all those sinners he healed and cleansed and to whom he spoke honor as he traversed Galilee—they knew he was flesh. They heard his voice. Many even ate bread and fish and drank wine with him. They knew that he dwelt with them.
And all those who forcibly shuttled him to the cross, who heard the cracks of the whip and saw the blood, and heard the hammer strike the nails: he was flesh, and he dwelt among them—to cleanse their bodies of sin, to heal their consciences, to bring them out of their shame and into his honor.
In The Flesh, a Gift to Us
The Word is now flesh, true Man, Jesus. He dwells among us in his Word and Sacrament. He knows the sin of our bodies, the sickness of our consciences, the shame in our lives. And he does not want us to be alone. He is with us.
And the Word became flesh
and dwelt among us,
full of grace and truth;
we have beheld his glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father.
His entrance in the flesh to dwell with sinners is the scandal of the cross. If God is going to come in the flesh, our world would expect that it would be to exert divine control, to show power. To our world, there is no scandal in exercising power.
Or our culture would expect that it would be to show the right rules and principles of how to live better—it would be a great show of practical living. To our culture, there is no scandal in practicality.
And if God is going to come in the flesh, the sinner would expect that it is to better hammer the sinner with the Law. As the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law could tell us, there is no scandal in the Law. The world is expecting the Law. The Christian, who belongs to the Gospel, will always be tempted to return to the slavery of the Law and works-righteousness.
But God the Son came by the Name Jesus. At the Name Jesus, we are given to find what is the actual scandal to our world and our culture. For if our world is not scandalized by the preaching of the Law (and the Pharisees can attest that our world is not scandalized it), we can be sure that our world is scandalized by the Gospel.
The Scandal of the Gospel
Our world is scandalized by the Gospel precisely because the Gospel gives the person no way to think that he can justify himself or help in his salvation.
For, the Gospel is the cross. The Gospel is that the sinner is justified before God not by any strength, merit, or works in the sinner, but only by the gift and benefit of Christ. The sinner is justified freely, that is, for Christ’s sake, through faith. And that is a scandal to our world, which wants to believe that we can use the Law to improve ourselves and merit our own salvation.
But Jesus came not to condemn, not to kill with the Law, but, as John says, for grace and truth. The Name Jesus means, The Lord Saves. He saves by speaking grace, by forgiving sins, by bestowing the honor of his Name. The truth he brings is the reality that where sins are forgiven by the blood of Jesus, there is life and salvation.
We still live in our sinful flesh (Scripture refers to this as the “old man” or the “outer man”—for example, 2 Corinthians 4:16). As we live in our sinful flesh, we still need to hear the Law. For the Law always accuses, and we need to hear this accusation in order to daily repent of our sin.
But at the same time—simultaneously—we live our life of faith (Scripture refers to this as the “new man” or the “inner man”). This is the life of the justified sinner, the new person of the cleansed heart living daily in the faith and joy of the Gospel.
Jesus came into the flesh for this reason, to be with sinners, to justify them with his Word, to cleanse their consciences, and to bestow upon them the heart of faith.
And now he, who came in the flesh by Mother Mary, comes in the flesh to us as he beckons us to his Body and Blood for the forgiveness of all our sin.
In the Name of Jesus,
What it Means to Have a Lord
From The Large Catechism, contemplation for this season of our Lord’s Birth
If now you are asked, What do you believe in the Second Article of Jesus Christ? answer briefly: I believe that Jesus Christ, true Son of God, has become my Lord. But what is it to become Lord? It is this, that He has redeemed me from sin, from the devil, from death, and all evil. For before I had no Lord nor King, but was captive under the power of the devil, condemned to death, enmeshed in sin and blindness.
For when we had been created by God the Father, and had received from Him all manner of good, the devil came and led us into disobedience, sin, death, and all evil, so that we fell under His wrath and displeasure and were doomed to eternal damnation, as we had merited and deserved. There was no counsel, help, or comfort until this only and eternal Son of God in His unfathomable goodness had compassion upon our misery and wretchedness, and came from heaven to help us. Those tyrants and jailers, then, are all expelled now, and in their place has come Jesus Christ, Lord of life, righteousness, every blessing, and salvation, and has delivered us poor lost men from the jaws of Hell, has won us, made us free, and brought us again into the favor and grace of the Father, and has taken us as His own property under His shelter and protection, that He may govern us by His righteousness, wisdom, power, life, and blessedness.
Let this, then, be the sum of this article that the little word Lord signifies simply as much as Redeemer, i.e., He who has brought us from Satan to God, from death to life, from sin to righteousness, and who preserves us in the same. But all the points which follow in order in this article serve no other end than to explain and express this redemption, how and whereby it was accomplished, that is, how much it cost Him, and what He spent and risked that He might win us and bring us under His dominion, namely, that He became man, conceived and born without [any stain of] sin, of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary, that He might overcome sin; moreover, that He suffered, died and was buried, that He might make satisfaction for me and pay what I owe, not with silver nor gold, but with His own precious blood. And all this, in order to become my Lord; for He did none of these for Himself, nor had He any need of it.
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