October 21, 2017

Reflections on the Incarnation of Christ

Thomas Overmiller

Thoughts on Mark 10:42-45 and Philippians 2

The Son of God became a human being. He completely identified with us by becoming an actual human being, with a completely human nature and body. He suffered the same pains, experienced the same emotions, endured the same limitations, and encountered the same temptations as we all do. Yet as a man, Christ did not resemble us in one very particular way.

Christ never experienced a sinful nature of His own, the curse of sin and death operating within Him. In this way, He stands out uniquely from every other human being. To be sure, Adam also did not initially experience the sin nature as we know it. Though He was created without sin, he personally introduced sin to the human race. Christ avoided this curse altogether through the virgin birth. He is the only human being to avoid experiencing the sin nature.

Jesus Christ is the only human being to avoid experiencing the sin nature.

So if Christ had no sin nature, was He somehow less human than you or me? Such is not the case. Christ is the Son of God – the epitome of God in the truest form. He is also the Son of Man – the epitome of mankind in the truest form – the Messiah. In your own human existence, you experience a deformed kind of humanity – a twisted, mutilated, crooked, stained, and damaged kind. Your humanity is severely flawed by sin. But the humanity of Christ was never flawed.

From conception, the humanity of Christ was perfect and heavenly – entirely intact, pure, holy, righteous, and uncorrupted, both God and man, both complete and intact in every way. So Christ was not less human than you or me, He was more human, the kind of human we all needed in order to be redeemed and rescued from the curse of sin we all experience. He was both more human and more than human. He was the Messiah from heaven, the ultimate representative of God and man, both in one, preeminent over all things.

Christ was not less human than you or me, He was more human.

In becoming a human, Christ embraced an assignment that required supreme humility. By accepting this mission before the creation of all things, He demonstrated a likeminded perspective with God the Father, though doing so would require Him, not the Father, to accept an infinitely lower position and status, eventually resulting in separation from the Father with whom He had experienced perfect fellowship for eternity. What kind of assignment did He embrace?

He embraced a new identity as servant. He became servant to people, all people of all time and all nations. As the sovereign God, He became servant to the very people He created, you and me, who rebelled against His goodness and love. Compared to Christ, we human beings are exceedingly inferior without a doubt. We are superior to Him in no way whatsoever. He is preeminent over us and all things. He always has been and always will be. But even so, He became our servant in the fullest sense. And there is more.

Not only did Christ become servant to all people, He became servant to God the Father – His own equal. He set aside His own individual will for Himself and embraced the will of the Father, including the excruciating suffering and rejection this would introduce to His personal experience. He did this for you and me. But even more, He did this for the Father. He became God’s servant to all people.

Is this not the ultimate form of humility, submitting to an equal? By submitting Himself to the will of the Father, Christ accepted a new identity as a human being in the fullest sense. He did not relinquish His divine nature, but gained a fully human nature besides. In doing so, He permitted His divine nature to be concealed. He also accepted the experience of death in the fullest sense. He did not die for His own sins, but the sins of the whole world.

Is this not the ultimate form of humility, submitting to an equal?

In light of all this, have you ever considered that Christ died in the most humiliating fashion? Perhaps He might have chosen to die in a nobler, more discreet, less humiliating manner and still accomplish His task. Did He not experience enough humiliation by submitting to His equal, becoming a human being, and accepting the suffering of death?

When Christ died, He died in a manner reserved for the most abominable kinds of people. He did not die quietly in His sleep, or even by disease or misfortune. He died on a cross. He died a public, defaming, humiliating, torturous death – the kind we all quietly hope to avoid ourselves.

The death of Christ underscores an important lesson for us all. Doing the will of God may damage your reputation and good name in this world, not for doing wrong, but for being misunderstood and misrepresented by people in this world. To be publically misrepresented hurts. It is excruciating. As human beings, we value our reputations; but Christ did not. Through the incarnation, He accepted this extremely agonizing experience. He was God – perfect, good, holy, loving, sincere, blameless, and righteous in every way. Yet this world misrepresented Him as an awful, heinous, abhorrent criminal, and they treated Him that way.

Doing the will of God may damage your reputation and good name in this world, not for doing wrong, but for being misunderstood and misrepresented by people in this world.

By dying in this manner, Christ became your substitute. He stepped under the curse of sin that plagues you and let the judgment of God through death fall on Him, pushing you out from under the curse. He absorbed the full judgment that you deserve. Your sin? It is judged already in Christ. Your death? It is finished by Christ. Have you accepted this gift of salvation provided at such great cost by Christ the Messiah? If you will receive this gift for yourself by depending on Christ in your heart, He will deliver you from the curse of sin and the penalty of death today. He will apply to your life as an individual the work He did on the cross for the entire world.

And for those who have already received this gift of salvation? How should we respond in daily practice to this unspeakable gift of the incarnation this holiday season, and at all times? We must allow God to instill this same kind of humility in our own hearts. We reflect thankfully on the incarnation of Christ in the past – which is Christ to you. But let us not miss out on the opportunity to bring the spiritual reality of the incarnation to others by our own testimonies and actions – which is Christ through you!

Such humility cannot be imitated. As finite human beings, impaired by our own sinful nature, we are not capable of genuine humility. It eludes us. But Christ’s incarnation makes genuine humility possible for us. He offers to share His own mind with each one of us who have received Him as Savior. He offers to give us His own ability to serve and submit to others in our life, whether they are superiors, subordinates, or equals to us – our employers and co-workers, spouses and children, parents and siblings, government officials and society at large, fellow students, and the other believers at church and in ministry with us. He offers us the ability to conscientiously accept the very real potential for a damaged reputation and for being rejected by the people of this world.

The incarnation of Christ makes genuine humility possible for us.

Look around you today and tomorrow. The people you see need the experience the humility and service of Christ through you to them. Depend on Christ for this humility and He will give it to you in a real, tangible, practical way.

Finally, Christ does not offer the gift of this servant perspective and these shared experiences as an end in themselves. He offers for us to join Him in the coming victory and glory that He will receive in the end and forever. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. In this holiday season, will you ask the Lord to give you a fresh enablement for His kind of humility – the kind that hurts at times? The kind that suffers now for His sake, serves others with His enabling, and expects a certain future reward? This holiday season and always, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”


Thomas Overmiller serves as a Bible professor at Baptist College of Ministry in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.


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