So last week we focused on the preexistence of Christ and what it means to the Christian faith and Christ's deity. Now let's talk about his incarnation. John doesn't actually reference the historical circumstances of Christ's birth. In fact, the only reference he makes is in John 1:14, where John says "and the Word was made flesh." Literally translated, this means Christ literally became flesh. So, why does John take the time to reference this? What's the big deal really???
Well, we talked a bit about this last week, and from my understanding of scripture (and of course, what was already studied for me), this is significant because this is the first time that God (who is Spirit) became flesh, or became human, and walked among us. This is why Christ is called "Immanuel" or "God with us."
It's important to recognize the fact that Christ took on flesh and became fully man because we do have other occurrences of God appearing to man throughout the Bible. Before Christ was born, God appeared to man in visual forms, but not in a human, fleshly body. These are called "theophanies." We know of at least seven occasions that God did this. However, at each of these instances, He did not appear in a fleshly body.
Here is the key to all of this and why it is important to make these distinctions. The incarnation means that God did not "dwell" in a human body. Rather, it means that He became man, what He was not before. But, it's important to remember that He did not cease to be all that He was before.
All right, now that we've established the fact that Christ was God walking among us, let's talk about John's choice of words. In verse 14, he says, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." The word that John uses for "dwelt" here literally means "Christ tabernacled, or pitched his tent" on this earth. In other words, John wants to give the image of a temporary living quarter, or that Christ only lived here for a temporary man (33 years).
This translation reminds us of the tabernacle in the dessert and we can draw some parallels between the tabernacle of the Old Testament and Christ "tabernacling" (yes, I think I just made up a word, but you get the picture) in the New Testament.
For example, the tabernacle was a temporary thing, as was Christ. Now hold on, before that is taken the wrong way, what I mean is that Christ was only on this earth for approximately 33 years. Interestingly enough, the tabernacle was only used for about 35 years in the desert.
Moving on, we know that the tabernacle was God's dwelling place (check out Exodus 25:21-22). And of course, we remember the definition of "Immanuel", or "God With Us," meaning that Christ dwelt among us.
The tabernacle was where God met man. In the Old Testament, God told Moses how to build the tabernacle and said He would meet man there (again, Exodus 25:21-22). Today, Christ is the meeting place between God and man (John 14:6)
When God told Moses how to build the temple, He directed that it be placed in the middle of the Israelite camp. In the same way Christ should be in the middle of our lives. Going along with this thought, it says in the Old Testament that God's glory rested on the Tabernacle. In the same way, when Christ was walking among us, we beheld his glory.
Now, hold that thought on glory for next week. We're going to focus on Christ's glory and what it means for us and dig into some of the original Greek and meaning of the texts. For now, here are some questions for you:
1. Why do you think that John focused on Christ's incarnation if he is trying to prove Christ is God?
2. What are some of the theophanies of God that we see in the Old Testament?
3. What does Christ's "tabernacling" mean to you and how can we keep our focus on him in light of this idea?