In 2007, Claire and I visited several churches in Kenya, one of which was in Marich, Kenya. When we met with the members of this church, the people shared with us what their needs were. They said that the biggest problems they faced were a lack of water, diseases that come from bad water and a lack of food. We listened carefully as they passionately told us what life was like for them. What do you say when the problems are so big? We said that the needs were indeed very great and our ability to help was very small. But I said that we would pray for them and that we would do what we could. Just a few days after we met with this church, a cholera epidemic swept through this community, sending 80 to the dispensary and killing 10.
We tried to understand what life was like for these beautiful people but there was no way we could fully understand and it would have been the height of arrogance and presumption for us to say, “We understand what it’s like for you.” We have no idea what it is like because we are not living there and we are not having to deal with the hardships these people were dealing with. We could not fully understand unless we were actually living there and became one of them.
Does anyone really fully understand you? Probably not. No one else fully understands each of our own situations. But there is one exception and that exception makes all the difference in the world for us. You see, Jesus is exactly like us and as a result He does fully understand us. Let’s read John 1:1-18. We will be focusing on verse 14.
I. Let’s look first at the terms “Word” and “flesh.”
John stated already in verse 1 that the Word was and is God. This Word was with God from the very beginning and instrumental in the creation of the world. The Word is eternal, almighty and all-powerful God! Now why did John choose this term as opposed to other terms? The term “Word” in the Bible describes God revealing Himself to His people. When the Jewish people heard the term “Word,” they thought of God as he was communicating with them, revealing something about Himself to them.
Now what is meant by the term “flesh.” For Paul the flesh is the sinful nature that we must be continually getting rid of. The term “flesh” for John is the whole human sphere of life. It means being human in its fullest sense with all its weaknesses but without sin.
Jesus did not come down from heaven and simply slip on a human uniform in order to blend into the crowd of people. The Greeks and Romans thought their gods would occasionally come down to earth just to see what was going on and then return to heaven. For example, I could put on a doctor’s white coat, hang a stethoscope around my neck and walk around the hospital and maybe pass for a doctor. Would that make me a doctor? Of course not. Jesus did not just dress up like us, he became one of us. This is the meaning of the term “incarnation.” Carnis is the Latin word for flesh like in the word carnivorous animal. Incarnate means that Jesus became flesh, He became one of us.
And what is important for us to remember is that Jesus still remained God. How can that be? How could Jesus be both God and man at the same time? When I married Claire almost 40 years ago, I became a husband. However, when our daughter was born I became a father. In that one event, I became both a husband and a father. The one event of Jesus’ birth was the time when Jesus became both God and man. Before Jesus was born, He was God. After Jesus was born, He remained God but also became human.
This is what article 18 of the Belgic Confession says. “So then we confess that God fulfilled the promise which he had made to the early fathers by the mouth of his holy prophets when he sent his only and eternal Son into the world at the time set by him. The Son took the "form of a servant"and was made in the "likeness of man," truly assuming a real human nature, with all its weaknesses, except for sin; being conceived in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, without male participation. And he not only assumed human nature as far as the body is concerned but also a real human soul, in order that he might be a real human being. For since the soul had been lost as well as the body he had to assume them both to save them both together.” The Son of God became one of us, a real human being.
God’s glory is that special thing that is always there whenever God reveals Himself. When God came to dwell in the Tabernacle, the people knew the glory of God was in that place. When we look around at this marvelously created world, we see God’s glory. John says when Jesus was on earth, the disciples saw this glory with their own eyes. First they saw the literal, physical Jesus of Nazareth. Later, they saw the risen Jesus with a wonder and awe as they saw God’s glory.
But they not only saw Jesus revealing God’s glory, they saw God’s grace and truth. They saw God’s grace in his overwhelming love for them. They saw Jesus, their Lord, the Son of God, dying on the cross and they realized that it was for their own sin and failures. But they also saw God desiring to save them in spite of their sin. But they also saw truth in Jesus. They saw that Jesus was the only answer for the needs of the world. They also saw the extent that God was willing to go to save His people.
Jesus’ incarnation should above all else show to us the love of God to His people. God could have decided just to let us go, wanting nothing more to do with us. But God didn’t just let us go because He promised long ago to save us. Jesus coming in the flesh shows just how far God was willing to go to save us. When we think of Jesus taking on our flesh, we should think of God’s love in sending Jesus to die for us.
But let’s also learn from this so that we can better understand who Jesus really is. Jesus was a wonderful human being, but He is also God. A few years ago, the paper reported that there was a new talking Jesus doll. The advertisement said, “This colorful and richly detailed talking figure brings the New Testament to life with a Jesus character that kids can play with and move. God’s only son, Jesus, helped people by teaching them God’s lessons, healing them and performing miracles. The Biblical character comes with a vibrant mini storybook that kids may follow and use to recreate the tales. A delightful ‘action figure’ and fully interactive way for children to learn and participate in religious education. For ages 3 years and up. Batteries included.” It was possible to have the Son of God for only $19.99, batteries included!
Jesus is God and wholly divine and sinless; we cannot forget that! He needed to be fully God to take the full weight of sin on Himself. He needed to be sinless to be an acceptable sacrifice for our sin. But Jesus was also a full and complete human person as well. He was also a person who weighed so many pounds and was of a certain height. He likely got sick and His teeth hurt him when he was teething as a child.
Jesus was also very real in his human emotions. He could become terribly angry and very fierce. But He could also weep and be filled with sorrow and disappointment. He likely laughed, told jokes and enjoyed Himself with His friends. He knew the feelings of rejection and pain just like we feel at times.
The point is that Jesus does really understand us in our problems and our joys. Does He know the frustration of losing your job or being unemployed. It is true that He didn’t work at a paying job. But He knew what it was like to have no money and have no place to call home.
Does He know the sorrow of losing a loved one in death? Jesus wept from sorrow and loss when His dear friend Lazarus died. He understands when we feel sorrow and pain from the loss of life.
What about the frustrations of not having enough time in the day? There were times when Jesus just needed to get away from all the pressures and crowds to pray and be by Himself. He got tired and frustrated just as we do at times.
Does He know the mixture of joy and frustration that young mothers face in taking care of little children? He never was a father; however His disciples were like little children who often were fighting and squabbling over little things. He also knew children and loved them.
Certainly Jesus knew about physical pain that wasn’t fair or deserved. He suffered terribly before His death and His death itself was a horrible agony. Jesus knows what it is like to suffer pain and physical weakness.
And certainly Jesus knew the pain of loneliness. No one really understood Him at all while he was on earth. He could talk to His disciples and He could pray, but there was no one who really understood what He was going through and who He was.
We could think of many other examples as well. But Jesus as one of us, a human being, suffered the same things we suffer. And that means that he understands us in our needs.
And the result of that is that we can trust Him fully because He understands us. It is very comforting to have someone who has gone through the same thing as you have gone through. After my father died, I remember talking to a person whose father had died a few years before. We had something in common in that and we understood how each other felt. And I can still remember how comforting that felt to have someone understand.
Jesus went through in some way whatever you are going through right now. He completely understands you and your needs. He is ready to listen and help if you are willing to talk with Him in prayer. He is willing to say, “I understand and I can help you. Trust me.” Are we willing to talk with him and bring him our very personal needs?