The word was at the beginning of all things, the word was with god, and the word was divine… and the word became flesh and erected his tent in the midst of us.
This morning I was struck by the phrase “…the word became flesh…”
Did god take on the mere appearance of a person? Did he put on an “earth suit” which would be distinct from who he “really was” and later discarded, or did he “become” flesh?
This strikes at the heart of what it means to be a human being. Is the essence of the “real you” some immaterial being that resides in a corporal prison longing for the day of release to a higher plane of existence, or is the nature of who we are much more grounded in the physical than we (and the ancient Greeks) might assume? Might it be more important how we regard this physical world generally, and our bodies more specifically?
When we think of the components derived from a Biblical Anthropology, the multiple choice options are usually presented as “are we 3, 2, or 1,” but this flattens a much more complex issue. The Bible is not primarily about who or what we are, it’s about god. It is not a book designed to answer the questions that we pose of it, however we can, in a derivative sense, draw conclusions about things ancillary to the main point (but only if we can sufficiently jettison our presuppositions).
As Bultmann put it in his NT Theology (and I find this helpful as well as right on the money): “man does not have a σῶμα (body), man is a σῶμα”
The nature of the relationship between our body (σῶμα), soul (ψυχή), and spirit (πμεῦμα) is not that of simple independent distinguishable parts that make up the totality of what it means to be “human.” At least, this is not the Bible’s depiction of humanity.
We are a whole, we are a complex unit, but a unit none the less, knit together in a glorious mystery that makes us different from all the other creatures.
So, the monumental event, the one that took place about 2,019 years ago in Bethlehem, is much more than the divine putting on a surface venire like a man going on a job interview buys a new suit. This was the biggest event in all of the world when god became flesh (σάρξ). He did not simply inhabit a body, but he became a physical human being.
The ramifications of this are much farther reaching than we might imagine. It is in Jesus that “all the fullness of divinity permanently resides bodily (σωματικῶς).” -Col. 2
He did not “pitch his tent for a while” here, this was a lasting change, a major decision, a magnificent act of emptying, becoming nothing (by comparison), to be born like all men, to become like all men in nature… yet, without losing the divine… a miracle indeed!
How great is the love that our god has for us! Not only did he send his son, but he died for us. Having become like all men, he suffered the same fate of every man… death. But god’s love is not beholden to the restrictions of this mortal flesh, god became a man, but no mere man. Love overcame the grave, Jesus was raised to life, and so too will we be.
Our hope is not the simple escape of the “real us” to the “real world” out there somewhere, but it is to the resurrection of the dead (cf. 1Thess 4:16). The recreation of the person that is you, all of you, body-soul-spirit you. Heaven is not floating on a cloud, playing a harp, being in some kind of disembodied etherial quasi-existence after having taken off your “earth clothes” (cf. 2Cor 5:3), no way, it’s much greater than that! Heaven is far more tangible, physical, real.
The word became flesh, and so it is from our flesh that we will see him again. Jesus is alive and he is returning, not in the “sweet by-n-by” but he is returning to this earth. Jesus is real, he is not an “imaginary friend,” and just as he was raised from the dead, so too shall we.
God became a man… this is profound.
For I know that my redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the [real, physical, dusty] earth, and though this will be long after my fleshy skin has been cut-down surrounded and disolved, yet as a real flesh and blood person I shall see god with my own eyes!
-Job 19So what do you think? How does thinking of Jesus as a real life flesh and blood man, not just a divine figure, change your perspective about him?