Comfort, Comfort My People, Says the Lord...Isaiah 40:1

Home » Jewish Inquiries » Theological Studies » The Mystery of the Incarnation
Home » Resources for Christians » Theological Studies » The Mystery of the Incarnation

The Mystery of the Incarnation

Ron Elkin
Ammi Ministry

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the God/man Jesus. One of the words used to describe this birth is "advent," which means "arrival" or "appearing." What a mystery it is! How can God be contained in flesh? This seems ridiculous to a Jew or Muslim. How can the vast and awesome God become a helpless baby dependent upon his parents for survival? Those who believe in God imagine him to be a vast unbeatable power, totally free and independent. However, Jesus is God's wisdom and not that of man.

In 1 Corinthians 1:24 we read, "But to those who are called, both Jews and Greek, Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God." The incarnation of Jesus is the beautiful wisdom of God, which the world cannot see. This wisdom has saved from hell all who believe in Him:

However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:6-8).

Christians receive this by faith. The vast majority of people today differ from those who rejected Jesus in the first century. In our historically Christian America and Europe, most people do not understand what Christmas is really about. For them, Christmas (like the New Year celebration in the former USSR) is a holiday when one decorates the house, gets together with family, and exchanges gifts. There simply is no place for Jesus. Yet there are some who, despite the fact they do not believe in a God to whom they are accountable, like the "good will" sentiment of Christmas.

Then there are those who do believe in a god, but their god either has no moral standards or is a distant and severe god who demands a multitude of works to earn the possibility of heaven. A God who would make himself vulnerable by becoming a physical man in order to die for their sins is inconceivable.

Before my wife became a Christian, she found it foolish that Gentiles could believe a baby born in a manger was God! Then she and a Christian friend went to hear Handel's Messiah. In the libretto her friend pointed out Isaiah 9 and said "See, here is your own Jewish prophet saying God would be born a baby." Seeing this prophecy was a stepping stone for my wife to eventually believe in Jesus.

The mystery of the incarnation is that Jesus is fully man and fully God. One way we know that the baby born in Bethlehem is more than a man is by the miracles he performed in adulthood. No human being can raise the dead, walk on water, cure leprosy, or turn water into wine. No human can truthfully say, "Before Abraham was born, I am" (John 8:58). Abraham lived 2200 years before Jesus was born, yet Jesus said that he always existed. Only God is eternal.

I always find it ironic when people reject the divine attributes of Jesus but say He was a good man or taught a good philosophy. A good man is not a liar. Jesus' claim to be one with the Father God and to be the only way to salvation is true; otherwise, he was either devious or self-deceived.

So, why the incarnation?

At the heart of God's plan of redemption is the fact that God is holy and we are not. As it says in Isaiah 64:6, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags".

The Levitical system was not able to take away our sin nature or change the heart of man.

Today the Temple no longer stands in Jerusalem, and the Levitical sacrificial system can no longer be practiced. Religious Jews have substituted good deeds for the sacrifices. However, it is not only Jews but many religious Gentiles as well who believe they can be saved through being good. However, Jeremiah 17:9 states, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it?" How can we evaluate and judge ourselves clean before a perfect, Holy God? If we could do enough good works to satisfy God, why would Jesus have gone through the torment of the cross?

A verse that touches my heart--because it shows the love of Jesus--is Hebrews 12:2: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross." When the angels spoke to the shepherds, as recorded in Luke chapter 2, they did not speak in Greek, the language in which the New Testament is written. They spoke in Hebrew, the language of the shepherds. According to Professor Shumel Safari and other Jewish and Christian scholars of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research, the common language in Israel at the time of Jesus was Hebrew and not Aramaic (as is commonly thought). Latin and Greek were also spoken in Israel.

Every word in the Scriptures is important, and when the etymology (the derivation of a word) is examined, it can aid us in a deeper understanding of the text. The Hebrew words used by the angels to announce the birth of Jesus describe the one whose birth we celebrate:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is [Messiah Adanai] Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:8-11).

The Greek verb used by Luke in verse 10 and rendered "bring good news" is εὐαγγελίζομαι (eúangelízomai). The equivalent Hebrew verb actually spoken by the angel would be בִּשַּׂר (biśar); biśar means "to reveal, present, preach or proclaim." Over the centuries biśar came to mean not only "present a message" but "present a good message" or "proclaim good news." Picture a messenger running from a battlefield to let the king and community know that their army has defeated the enemy. It is good news proclaiming a joyful victory.

In Judaism at the time of Jesus, the word biśar, or bring good news, was connected with the ushering in of the Messianic age. In Nahum chapter 1 verse 15 God speaks of delivering Israel from those who oppress her and of the coming Messiah: "Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace!" This was seen by the Rabbis as referring to Messiah.

Another section of Scripture that refers to good news, the Messiah, and mountains is Isaiah 40:9-11:

O Zion, you who bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, you who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.

In the New Covenant, Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd who looks after His sheep. Also in verse 10 it states that God's arm will rule for him. The arm of the Lord often refers to the Messiah (see Isaiah 53:1).

Finally, the imagery of a Messianic rescuer standing upon a mountain is found in Zechariah 14:4. Messiah helps Israel when it is attacked by many nations in the end times.

Another word that is connected to biśar (bring good news) is בָּשָׂר (bāśār), the Hebrew noun for flesh. This word encompasses both the physical body and the whole being of a person. The "good news" that the angels proclaimed was "Messiah is born! He is in the body of a baby."

Jesus is the content of the Good News. The message of joyful victory has come in the flesh. He not only brings the message that the Kingdom of God is at hand, but He is the Kingdom. He is the victorious Good News, and He is the victorious winner of the battle with Satan and death. He is the victorious deliverer.

Why would God take on human flesh?

There are several reasons.

Only by becoming the "Good-News, Flesh-Messiah" could he actually shed real blood. As the wonderful Gospel song proclaims, "There is power, power, wonder working power in the precious blood of the Lamb." He became flesh so that he could die, then live again. If he hadn't become flesh, he could not have had victory over death. Jesus became flesh so we could rejoice before the Lord. The first Advent of Jesus brought wonderful salvation for those who accept him, but also judgment for those who reject him. Not to surrender to King Jesus and recognize our need to be cleansed from sins is to remain in a spiritual desert.

His advent and death extended the salvation of God beyond Israel to all nations and peoples. For Isaiah had prophesied, "In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious" (Isaiah 11:10).

He also came to equip believers with the Holy Spirit so we could serve him and the church. He was born so we could have the joy of proclaiming His victory. His birth and death is a vestibule to the Kingdom of God. We are not only citizens of America or some other country, but because of His birth and sacrifice we are also citizens of heaven. We're in the world but not of the world. We are not to withdraw from the world. We should do all we can to repair the world in the name of Jesus while waiting for the return of the Lord. The birth of Jesus should energize us to find ways to serve. He is the greatest example of service, and as disciples we are to copy Him. He didn't look out for His own well being but willingly gave Himself for us.

In our earthly citizenship we are to be involved citizens. Pray for our leaders that there might be peace in order that the Gospel can be proclaimed.

I am going to end with the words of Charles Spurgeon. He had a Christmas message that encouraged his congregation not only to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but also his return. Spurgeon said:

Many are celebrating our Lord's first coming this day; let us turn our thoughts to the promise of His second coming. This is as sure as the first advent. He who came as a lowly man to serve will assuredly come to take the reward of His service. He who came to suffer will not be slow in coming to reign. This is our glorious hope, for we shall share His joy.

Today we are in our concealment and humiliation, even as He was while here below; but when He comes it will be revealed who we are, even as it will be His revelation. Dead saints shall live at His appearing. The slandered and despised shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Then shall the saints appear as kings and priests, and the days of their mourning shall be ended. The long rest and inconceivable splendor of His Kingdom will be an abundant recompense for the ages of witnessing and warring.

Oh, that the Lord would come! He is coming! He is on the road and traveling quickly. The sound of His approach should be as music to our hearts! Ring out, ye bells of hope.

We praise God for sending Messiah Jesus. May God bless your celebration of His birth as we look forward to His return. Of course, if you are not one of His children, then His return will be a source of great distress for you. The Bible says that those who are not believers in Jesus will be terrified at His return and try to hide under a rock. May God soften your heart and bring you to repentance and saving faith.

AMMI Ministry, P.O. Box 481, Willow Grove, PA 19090, 215-843-1764

© Copyright 2018 Ammi Ministry. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us | Email Webmaster