Ruminations on the Incarnation

What does it mean for man to be made in the image of God and then to have God become man? What does it mean for God to hold mankind together–and, indeed, all of creation–and then to enter into humanity as a man himself? How does it change our lives that God lived a life like ours and now lives on with a body like ours?

The Incarnation is at once simple and complex, beautiful and humiliating. There’s a balance to the whole thing such that it begins to feel like wordplay. The way poetry makes words mean more than they may have meant before–this is what the Incarnation does to the meaning of man. God became man that man might be with God. The phrasing of it almost begins to feel circular (“man that man”) but it never quite closes in. The spiral continues upwards and away from the starting point, naturally leading to conclusions and truths but starting with just one simple statement.

God became man.

Man was already in the image of God. That was part of the plan, and had been since the beginning. Man fell, but was still in the image of God. Suddenly, though, we were bad at being like God. We’d try, but we always fell short. And yes, I do mean ‘we.’ It’d be easy to read that last bit and think about the people of the Old Testament as the perpetrators, but take the harder path. We are as guilty of ignoring the image of God in us as anyone.

At some point, God stopped talking to us. Mankind received no words from his creator, even though previous years had been filled with words and laws and actions. Men had previously walked with God, conversed with God, argued with God, and seen miracles that shocked whole nations for generations.

And then, all of a sudden, the Word burst forth. Born to a virgin and legal son of a carpenter, Jesus the Incarnate Word broke the worst silent treatment anyone has ever endured. This man, this second Adam, walked with God–in part because he was God. For thirty years, however, we hear nearly nothing from this Word. He simply dwells among us. He probably made tables and chairs, or whatever else Jewish carpenters made at the time. He likely had friends and his town knew who he was. He asked questions at the temple. But even the Word waits for more words from the Father and the Spirit before proceeding to speak to the nations. The Word demonstrates perfect submission even in light of a perfect will.

Man, made in the image of God, rejected the perfect Image of God and crucified him. We who were older in flesh but younger in age took it upon ourselves to kill the one who created us and intended to save us from ourselves. Of course He rose–after all, who are we to kill God?–and now offers us the same chance to rise when we kill ourselves. And kill ourselves we must, since we deserve that to which we condemned the innocent one.

God became man that we may learn to kill ourselves the way we killed the ultimate man. The Incarnation teaches us life to teach us death to give us life. The spiral continues, but always points back to that simple truth.

God became man.

God as man saves man from man and from God.

Image via Wikipedia.

Published by

J.F. Arnold

James received his MA in Philosophy of Religion at Talbot School of Theology in 2013. He holds a BA in Biblical Studies from Biola University, and is a graduate and perpetual member of the Torrey Honors Institute. James blogs on a number of subjects, including technology, theology, and hip-hop. He has written for Biola’s Center for Christianity, Culture, & the Arts, The Gospel Coalition, and he is an editor for Mere Orthodoxy. You can also keep up with him on Twitter (@jamesfarnold).