God's End Game - Part 18
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
March 17, 2019
Let’s keep going in our quest to discover God’s End Game, to tackle the matter of what God’s up to with us the world, where all this is headed, and how he’s going to fix his good world gone bad.
As you hopefully know by now, God’s end game plan revolves around Jesus and has three telescoping parts, one flowing from the other.
It begins with the INCARNATION.
It climaxes with the CRUCIFIXION.
It carries on with the RESURRECTION.
We’ve been focusing on that first part: incarnation.
INCARNATION - God taking on human flesh, becoming a man, and living a life in perfect fulfillment of God’s law.
Put together all the pieces of the puzzle we have so far and you see the way God goes about fixing his good world gone bad is faith. You and I are made right with God by believing in His promises, promises bound up in Jesus, who is God come in the flesh.
John, in the introduction of his Gospel, helped us figure out that the Word is Jesus (God come in the flesh), and he was there with God in the beginning, which means he existed before time, space, and matter came into being. And John says Jesus, the Word, was God. He was separate and distinct from God, yet he was God at the same time.
Last time we dialed down on verse 14 of chapter 1, where John made sure no one mistook what he said about Jesus…
John 1:14 (ESV) — 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Word, Jesus who was with God and was God, became flesh (incarnation) and dwelt among us. Dwelt is translated from a Greek word associated with “tent.” So, it could be translated, the Word pitched his tent among us.
The Apostle John chose this word intentionally. He wanted us to think back to Exodus where God gave Moses the Law and commands to build a sanctuary, AKA the tabernacle, AKA the tent of meeting.
Based on that connection, verse fourteen could be translated as “the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” The association is unmistakable: God tabernacled among his people in the Moses’ day in the tent of meeting; God tabernacled among his people in the apostles’ day in the person of Jesus Christ.
If that’s not enough, John went on to demonstrate Jesus is God tabernacling among us in the flesh with all his glory by presenting miraculous signs, like turning water to wine, healing diseases such as blindness, feeding multitudes, and raising a man from the dead. Only God could do that. Jesus even forgave sins! Only God could do that.
Just so you know, I held back here. If we weren’t going for the big picture, we’d camp out a lot longer.
Know this: the incarnation, phase one of the major play in God’s end game, is about Jesus actually being God, 100% God.
Though folks have tried to twist and modify that over the centuries, making Jesus less than 100% God, this truth has stood the test of time.
Today, though, we will look at the other side of the incarnation, and when we do, it’ll seem as if I’m contradicting all this.
I can take the Scripture and show you that John and the other Apostles in the early church believed and taught Jesus was and is God, but I can also take that same Scripture and show you something else.
I can show you that he was…
Born just like us
Luke 2:7 (ESV) — 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Isn’t it a contradiction to say Jesus is God and yet have him come into the world as a helpless baby, dependent on his parents to survive?
Received into his family just like us
Luke 2:21 (ESV) — 21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Really, God being circumcised? Come on.
Grew physically and matured just like us
Luke 2:52 (ESV) — 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Luke 2:52 (The Message) — 52 And Jesus matured, growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people.
Seriously? If Jesus was God come in the flesh, 100% God, then at least wouldn’t he have to be born knowing all there is to know? Wouldn’t he come out of the womb quoting the Book of Isaiah or something?
Let me rock your world a bit more…
Hebrews 5:8 (The Message) — 8 Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do.
Hungered just like us
Matthew 4:2 (ESV) — 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
Experienced fatigue just like us
John 4:6 (ESV) — 6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
God got tired? Doesn’t the Bible say God never gets weary?
Slept just like us (well I might not be asleep on a boat in a storm)
Matthew 8:24 (ESV) — 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.
Doesn’t the Bible also say God never sleeps?
Cried and grieved just like us
John 11:35 (ESV) — 35 Jesus wept.
Suffered just like us
Luke 22:44 (ESV) — 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Died just like us (what I mean by that is that just like us, he was killable)
John 19:30 (ESV) — 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
How can you kill God?
What I’ve just shared with you is the reason many deny Jesus was God (especially Muslims). So over the years, folks have tried to reconcile it all by coming up with novel ideas, better known as heresy, and they all have one thing in common: Jesus, in one way or another, is less than 100% God.
But as we’ve already seen, when you really study the Gospels, you realize the very ones who saw Jesus get tired and saw him get sleepy and saw him cry and saw him die, also believed without any doubt he was and is God come in the flesh. If you’re Jesus is anything less than 100% God, he isn’t the Jesus described in the Bible.
So how do we reconcile it? The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Christians at Philippi where, evidently, there was some contention among the saints. Paul used Jesus as an example of how they should act towards one another, and in the process revealed something about the incarnation that helps…
Philippians 2:5–11 (ESV) — 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Clearly, Paul refers to the incarnation, but depending on what translation you have, this text can be confusing, even appearing to support the idea that Jesus was just a form of God or appeared to be God but wasn’t actually God. It’s difficult to translate word-for-word from Greek to English.
See, though, that Paul mirrored the Gospel writers’ view of Jesus: Jesus was equal with God (v. 6). For a Jew to say Jesus was equal with God was to say Jesus was and is God. And he supported their idea that Jesus was God come in the flesh (“born in the likeness of men” v. 7).
The key here is understanding what Paul means by Jesus “emptying himself.” Some misinterpret it to mean Jesus emptied himself of his “Godness” and became a less than who he was before the incarnation. In other words, he gave up his deity and all its powers. That’s not what Paul intended.
NT Wright explains…
[Let’s clear one misunderstanding out of the way in case it still confuses anybody. In verse 7 Paul says that Jesus ‘emptied himself’. People have sometimes thought that this means that Jesus, having been divine up to that point, somehow stopped being divine when he became human, and then went back to being divine again. This is, in fact, completely untrue to what Paul has in mind. The point of verse 6 is that Jesus was indeed already equal with God; somehow Paul is saying that Jesus already existed even before he became a human being (verse 7). But the decision to become human, and to go all the way along the road of obedience, obedience to the divine plan of salvation, yes, all the way to the cross—this decision was not a decision to stop being divine.]
I’ll read this in another translation, one that isn’t particularly my favorite but does a good job here…
Philippians 2:5–11 (The Message) — 5 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. 6 He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. 7 Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! 8 Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. 9 Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, 10 so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, 11 and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.
What Paul alludes to in Philippians he proclaims outright in his letter to the Colossians and it gives us the full force of the incarnation and its implications…
Colossians 2:9 (ESV) — 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,
Paul reconciles a Jesus who is God with a Jesus who is human by proclaiming…
Jesus is 100% God and 100% man at the same time.
How can both be true?
Well, how can God be one God and yet three persons? How can God speak reality into being? How can a man be born of a virgin? How can somebody come back from the dead?
You might very well think these impossibilities and contradictions make believing in Christianity unreasonable. And they do if you’re going to limit reality to the material and observable. Yes, it’s unintellectual if you’re forcing what we know into human terms only.
But one big, underlying assumption of the Bible is that there is an unseen realm to our reality, that behind all this there is something, someone beyond us. Part of the message John and Matthew and Paul’s proclaim is that something supernatural happened 2,000 years ago, something that defies explanation in human terms, something that changes our world as we understand it, something downright revolutionary.
If you’re shutting the door on the possibility of anything being outside what you can know or confirm by the senses or science, then we’re done here. But if you’re cracking it open just a little, get ready to be challenged. Get ready to struggle with seeming contradictions.
Let me say it again: It makes sense that things having to do with the divine would don’t make sense to us.
Don’t ever forget this. It’s true across the board for anyone. Just because something can't be explained, doesn’t mean there isn’t an explanation.
Conclusion: I can’t tell you how Jesus can be both 100% God and 100% man at the same time. But I think I can show you why. I think I can make sense of why God had to become a man and why anything less than fully God and fully man wouldn’t do.
And I’ll do that next week. In a way, next week’s sermon is the “So what?” to this week’s.
But even with what we know up to this point, you can’t just sit on this. It truly is revolutionary. God got his hands dirty and stepped into our reality in all his glory and in all our humanity to save us.
To save you. The way you tap into the power of that truth is believing in Jesus.
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