First Mennonite Church
August 14, 2022
God Taking Human Form
Text: Luke 2: 4-7; John 1: 1-2; 14; 19: 1-6; 117-18; 28-30; 31b-34.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Matthew tells us, “Joseph gave him the name Jesus” (1:25).
John 1: 1-2; 14.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 19: 1-6; 117-18; 28-30; 31b-34
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.
4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” 5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”
6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”
17 Carrying his own cross, he (Jesus) went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.
The four Gospels tell the story of Jesus, his birth, ministry, passion and resurrection. Jesus’ story begins, as we heard from the Gospel of Luke: In the town of Bethlehem a baby boy was born. Mary, his mother, labored just as any other mother does while giving birth. Either Mary or Joseph had to slap the baby’s buttocks to elicit his first cry. And once dried and swaddled, Baby Jesus suckled breast milk as we all did. The God Incarnate, Jesus, wore baby clothes. He grew up and we only have on incident about him when he was at the age of twelve. His public appearance took place when he was around 30 years of age.
Interspersed throughout the Gospels, also, are anecdotes where we see Jesus in his full humanity. He got tired and need to rest. He laughed, I am sure, as he did cry. He had to wash himself after long journeys under the scorching sun. And in the end, John’s Gospel tells us about his passion. While “in the flesh,” as Paul would say, Jesus as a Jew, was even suspected of violating the rules of his religion. Thus, he was brought to Pilate. Pilate was eager to lay eyes on Jesus. To keep the respect of crowds, Pilate played the role of a tough guy. He questioned Jesus, “Are you king of the Jews?” “What is it you have done?” “What is truth?” And then Pilate had Jesus flogged. A crown of thorns was put on Jesus’ head, and soldiers repeatedly slap him on the face and spat on him. There were real bruises, his face turned red, his scalp bled real blood, and he could smell the spittle dripping down his face. That is because Jesus had a body like you and I have. Jesus, the Incarnate God, revealed to the world the extent of his love. And all of it, while in human body.
Very often we are tempted to believe that the Incarnation—that is God’s appearing in human form, as a past event only. We can be tempted to believe that once Jesus died, the incarnation of God was over. However, one fundamental truth about the nature of the church is that it is a Spirit-led community, called the body of Christ. Paul often spoke about the church, as being the body of Christ. But most often, Christians believe that this is only a spiritual truth or affirmation about the nature of the church. Such spiritualization about God’s incarnation has led to a Christianity lacking concrete expressions of being the body of Christ in the world.
Yes, it is true that the Incarnation of God was inaugurated through the birth of Jesus, but it continues today through the church. In John’s Gospel, Jesus commissions his disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” That was a daunting task to his disciples as it is for us today.
Jesus had two main purposes for being sent by the Father. Those are: to make known the Father and to reconcile mankind with God.
The words of the apostle Peter are very clear about the purpose of our calling. Peter says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1Peter 2:9).
In Ephesians 3, verse 10, Paul writes:His (God’s) intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to all powers . . .according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
According to these and other directly or indirectly stated passages in the NT, the church is the continuation of Jesus’ presence in the world. We have been called into God’s glorious light. We have been called and consecrated to announce, to make known God’s love for the world. We have been given, even if not with equal power, the same calling Jesus had when he was in the flesh.
Regarding the second purpose of Jesus’ commission was that of reconciling the world with God. Jesus says, we have also been sent to do that. This is what Paul says in 2Corinthians 5:16-20:
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
As we can see, we have been called to do exactly what Christ did to us—reconciled us to God. Being reconciled with God includes God’s freeing us from the consequence of our sins. Being reconciled with God means that we are now at peace through the forgiveness of our sins. It is in light of such undeserved forgiveness of our sins that we should also be imploring our friends, relatives, and neighbors to also be reconciled with God. God’s forgiveness transforms us into ambassadors the message of reconciliation as well. We are tasked to call men and women to make peace with God. We are sent to invite, to implore, and to urge our fellow men and women to find peace with God. That is exactly what Jesus did everyday during his almost three and half years of ministry while in the body.
While on earth and in the body, through his words and deeds, Jesus invited people to be reconciled with God. Jesus did not teach religious rules, nor was his religion only a private and spiritual matter. Instead, he engaged others in friendship. He sought to help others by healing them. He showed love by welcoming everyone without condition. His words were accompanied with deeds; thus, what he said were made visible by what he did. All of these he did, while in the body.
God’s incarnation began through the man named Jesus of Nazareth, but it continues today through you and me. Literally, you and I, in the body with hands, feet, voices and all, are the continuation of Christ’s physical presence in the world today.
Let me close with Paul’s appeal to the Roman church. Let me read Romans 6:12-13:
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. Amen!
 All Biblical text is from the NIV available at www.biblegateway.com