The Transformation of Jesus
There was once a man- an atheist. He simply could not accept the idea that a god would ever become a human. Not for the sake of such an inferior race. And even if one did, how could a loving god condemn a person for what they believe? One cold, snowy winter's night, he heard a thud on the window. He looked out into the blowing snow, but could see nothing. A little later, he heard another thud, and another. When he went outside to investigate, he found out the truth. A number of birds had become confused in the snow and flown directly into his window, killing themselves on impact. Taking pity on the birds, the man opened the doors of his barn. The birds could fly into his barn and there take refuge from the cold and the snow. Yet when he went back inside, he continued to hear the birds colliding with the window. The man became very distraught. The barn was open. The birds could fly in there and be saved. Why were they killing themselves? He realized that the only way he could change this awful trend was if he could somehow transform into a bird so that he could tell them of the danger they were in and how they could be saved. But even if such a thing were possible, who is to say that the natural birds would believe him?
At that moment, God's plan of salvation finally made sense.
We've learned a lot about the Messiah by examining the signs of His coming. But we haven't taken a hard look at the Messiah himself.
We all know that Jesus became a flesh-and-blood man. That now goes without saying. But let's pause for a moment and think about what that means.
Jesus was a god. He was THE God. He was all-powerful. He was all-knowing. He existed since forever past. This is the same God who helped His father to create the universe, fully aware that one day, Jehovah would give all of it to Him. He watched the people of the Old Testament be born, live and die like a human raising pet rats. He was omnipotent, immortal, and he had everything. Yet he gave it all up to be confined to a physical body.
It would be like Donald Trump or Bill Gates leaving their fortunes behind to be reborn as a tadpole, having nothing to look forward to but life as a frog. While some of you might find that appealing, I don't think Bill or Donald would.
President Van Buren did. He wished he could be reincarnated as a frog. Why? Obviously, he loved frogs.
Why did Jesus become a human? Obviously, he loved humans. But that's only the causal reason. What are the effective reasons? What did He hope to accomplish by becoming the son of a human carpenter and his wife?
One of the first that comes to mind is the reason that comes up in the opening story. If you want to really communicate with humans, the best way to do it is to BE a human. Jesus took full advantage of this opportunity to teach us in person, preaching for three years before He went to the cross. Though God the Father spoke much through the prophets of the Old Testament, none of the messages ever hit home the way they did when Jesus spoke them in person. As the latter verses of "O Holy Night" celebrate, "Jesus taught us to love one another. His law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother and in his name all oppression cease."
Another reason Jesus became a human was so that he could truly understand us. Not that he didn't understand us intellectually. After all, he knows everything. But because he became one of us, he truly experienced everything that we experience. He knew what it was like to be scorned. To be abandoned. To be hated for no reason. He knew prejudice. He knew avarice. He was the victim of so many of our worst ways. When we go to Christ with our sorrows, He can honestly say that He has been there, too. Not to belittle our pain, but to assure us that he truly sympathizes. He even understands the pain of losing a loved one to death.
He even suffered temptation as we do. That's part of being a human. I've heard it said that because Jesus was born by a virgin, He had no sin nature. I have to disagree. Not that I believe Jesus sinned. Quite the opposite. Jesus is the one human being who never sinned. But this is not because of His body. Physically, Jesus was completely human. It was because He is God that He was able to overcome the nature inherrant in our flesh. And in doing so, He not only kept Himself pure and acceptable before God, but He gave us the perfect example to follow, demonstrating to us that we are not obliged to obey the urgings of our flesh. He became human to lead his followers by example.
Then there is the matter of the Earth. When Adam and Eve were created, they were placed in charge of the Earth. They were the king and queen of the animals and the curators of all nature. They were in the highly enviable position of being in perfect harmony with all things. They had fellowship with God. They spoke with the animals. They were connected to nature. When they disobeyed God, all of that was lost. hey were cut off from God. The animals were forced to fend for themselves. The Earth was seperated from its caretakers, becoming an orphaned planet, with nothing to protect it from Satan's wiles save the loving creator who continued acting from afar.
To restore what had been lost, a sinless human would have to offer a ransom to redeem the Earth and buy back what had been forfeited. In Revelation Chapter 5, John sees a scroll that is sealed with seven seals. There's a reason for this scroll. It is the deed to creation. At first, no one is found who is worthy to open the scroll. Not Moses, not Abraham, not Mary, not even Enoch. All of us have sinned against God and as a result, forfeit our claim on God's world. But then John sees the lamb of God- Jesus. He is the one who breaks the seals on the scroll, simultaneously unleashing the wrath of God on those on the Earth who remain rebellious and redeeming the Earth for those penitent souls who love Him. He is the one human who is able to buy back the Earth for all of us.
Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
Which brings us to the the primary reason Jesus became a man. It was necessary for Jesus to be our sacrifice. And not just our sacrifice. C.S. Lewis puts it this way: Because we are imperfect, it is impossible for a normal human (or even one of us abnormal ones) to repent in the utterly complete and total way that is really necessary to be reconciled to a Holy God. But think of an adult teaching a child to write his name. He takes the child's paw in his own, providing the power and control to the child's paw, and when the writing is done, the child recieves full credit for writing his name. So it is that when Jesus took our punishment on Himself, He took our hearts in His own and took us through the motions of a pure and total repentance.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth."
As we celebrate the gift of Jesus this Christmas, let us remain mindful of exactly what that gift cost. Jesus did not stay a baby in a manger. He grew up as one of us and when the time came, he suffered and died for us. He took upon himself the sins of the whole world. Not just the sins of those who would believe, but ALL of it, so that all would have the chance to accept His sacrifice and be saved. As with the birds in our story, salvation is a free gift. No one is refused. No one is judged for their disbelief. It is simply that disbelief prevents the acceptance of the gift.
Jesus suffered the most agonizing death mankind could ever devise. He freely gave of his own flesh and blood so that we could live. Today, we celebrate that gift and honor its terrible price.
In a moment, we will be partaking of the elements of the Lord's table. I'd like to say that the elements themselves are not important. It isn't necessary that the bread be made of wheat or the wine of grapes. There is no magic power in the elements of communion. We could use coca-cola and potato chips if that were all we had. It's been done before. The important thing is that we commemorate Jesus' sacrifice on the cross as He instructed, in remembrance of Him.
Pastor Oren Otter
December 17, 2005