I recently wrote a few devotionals for a forthcoming publication and I thought I would publish them at my blog as well. Here is the first.
John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
Every December, Christians around the world gather to watch the annual Christmas pageant. But for many of us, the extraordinary claim at the heart of that story, namely that God the Son became a human being, no longer shocks and stirs wonder as it once did.
That began to change for me some years ago when I was testing a new computer translation program. In order to evaluate the reliability of this program, I highlighted the Greek text for John 1:14 and then pushed the translate button. A moment later out came the result: “The Word became meat and dwelled among us.” Meat? That sounded positively blasphemous. I looked over my shoulder nervously, half expecting that a bolt of lightning might smite me for some sort of sacrilege. Can you say that? Can you say that God became meat?
But as the shock subsided, I had to admit that this crude translation did capture the literal essence of John’s claim. In the Greek, the text says that the Word, God the Son, became sarx, physical stuff, flesh, meat. If that makes you uncomfortable, then now you know how the Jews and Greeks felt when they first heard the claim two thousand years ago. This is definitely a plot twist that nobody saw coming.
Given the shock of the incarnation, it should be no surprise that over the years many Christians have tended to soften the radical notion of God becoming meat. Consider, for example, this line from the familiar Christmas classic “Away in a Manger”: “little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” Seriously? What infant child is this that he never cries?
On the contrary, the claim that God became meat suggests that infant Jesus did indeed cry; as a boy, Jesus grew in wisdom and favor with God and people (Luke 2:52); throughout his life, he experienced hunger (Mark 11:12), thirst (John 19:28), and exhaustion (John 4:6); he suffered (Hebrews 2:18), and he wrestled with the will of God the Father (Matthew 26:36-46); he was tempted as we are, yet remained without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
Let us never become too familiar with the shocking, wonderful fact that God the Son became meat.