This time of year Christians remember and celebrate the incarnation; the Almighty Creator of all things voluntarily becoming a human being to live as one of us. This uniquely Christian conviction cannot be found among the differing religions and philosophies birthed in the world (ancient or modern). The reason is simple: The GOD never gets this close to humanity, never does something so demeaning or unbecoming of Deity! Non-Christian people of every generation have found this belief strange, stupid or even offensive to their religious sensibilities.
Some years ago there was a popular song that expresses very well the sense of bewilderment over the biblical conception of God. It was done by the artist Joan Osborne and is titled, “One of Us.” (From Osborne’s album titled “Relish” .)
The questions being posed in this song are profound. Who is God? How could God relate to us? How could we ever connect with God in any true meaningful way if he is great, holy, all-powerful? I think that the lyrics also reveal something very important about how many people (religious or secular) view God and themselves and the biblical claims of Jesus Christ. The implied answer (in the lyrics) to the questions posed in the song is this: God could be “one of us” but only if he were just as sick and hopeless as we are!
The question posed in this song, “What if God was one of us?” is very similar to the question the writers of the New Testament asked about Jesus of Nazareth. The key question you find the disciples asking in the Gospels is, “Who is this man, whom we know as one of us? Could he be God?” The Lord claimed for himself the nature of God while obviously being an otherwise unremarkable man. The unanimous testimony of the apostles’ is he is indeed God. But what kind of God was this man? Or perhaps, what kind of God did this God-Man reveal?
I would suggest that the reader pay special attention to Hebrews chapter 2. There is a remarkable affirmation of the incarnation and an explanation of the reason why God the Son became incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. Let us look at together.
In the first chapter the writer of Hebrews has gone to great lengths to argue that Jesus Christ is God the Son and superior to all creatures—particularly angels. So in the first four verses (2:1-4) he gives a sober warning about listening to the Son. God had testified to the identity of Jesus as his dearly beloved Son sent to bridge the divide between God and humans. The writer is pleading for his readers to listen now rather than later—for they will be held responsible for how they responded to the message of Jesus Christ.
He then makes (2:5-8) an abrupt turn by quoting at length from Psalm 8. This Psalm testifies to King David’s astonished wonder that God would gift human beings with such extraordinary worth, dignity and position among created things—they were made to bear the Image of the invisible, Almighty Creator of the heavens and the earth! They were made to “subdue” the creation by reflecting and carrying out the Creator’s good purpose for it. They were to be God’s direct instruments of good through wise stewardship of his creation.
However, the grand vision boldly proclaimed in the Psalm has not come to pass. Human history shows us that humans have definitely not fulfilled that purpose in the earth. This is so because humans missed their created purpose by seeking to live as though they were gods and had no need for their Maker; they missed what God had graciously marked them out for—to know the love of God and find joy in serving God alone—for the glory of God, the good of their fellow humans and the whole created realm.
But note verse 8, “As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them.” (2:8, NRSV) That is, to human beings. This phrase “do not yet see” hints at a point in the future that will be radically different from human life as we know it! God has promised a future life of joy for redeemed humans which is beyond our ability to comprehend now. Jesus called this the Kingdom of God—which is here now but to be fully revealed in the future. This gives us great hope!