John 1:14: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
A scientist was walking in his garden one day thinking about the great mysteries of the universe, and who or what was in control. He allowed that there must be some sort of higher being, but he could not conceive how a God who created the universe could be known by man. How could little, insignificant man understand God? As he was thinking this, his shadow fell over an ant hill, and all the ants began to scurry to safety. Watching their panic, he suddenly realized the only way he could show them that he meant them no harm was if he were to become an ant himself.
God decided to communicate with man in the same way, by becoming one of us. He wanted us to understand his feelings toward us, he wanted to communicate his love for us, so he did something that shook the universe: he became man without ceasing to be God. We call this the Incarnation. God took on the form of a human being so that he could communicate with us on our own level. Jesus Christ was not just a man who achieved such perfection of character that he reached the Godhood. He was God, who descended to the human level so that he could lift man to the divine level.
God has always loved man, but we went against God’s will: we sinned. Being a just God, he must punish sin. Payment must be made for the wrong done. Out of his love for mankind, God devised a way for payment to be made for sin that would still allow us to be with him in happiness for eternity: He would make the payment for sin himself. As a man, he was able to live under the law — as God, he did so perfectly. Since we could not do it, he did it in our place. As a man, he went through everything that we go through, yet he did so without sin. As a man, he suffered the punishment for sins. Since he was God, he was able to take the sins of all men upon himself. In order to pay for sin, he laid aside his power as God. That was the only way he was able to die in our place.
The price that Jesus paid for our redemption was terrible. When we think of the suffering he endured to purchase our freedom from sin’s penalty, our hearts should overflow with love for him.
An orphaned boy was living with his grandmother when their house caught fire. The grandmother, trying to get upstairs to rescue the boy, perished in the flames. The boy’s cries for help were finally answered by a man who climbed an iron drain pipe and came back down with the boy hanging tightly to his neck. Several weeks later, a public hearing was held to determine who would receive custody of the child. A farmer, a teacher, and the town’s wealthiest citizen all gave the reasons they felt they should be chosen to give the boy a home. As they talked, the boy’s eyes remained focused on the floor. Then a stranger walked to the front and slowly took his hands from his pockets, revealing severe scars on them. As the crowd gasped, the boy cried out in recognition. This was the man who had saved his life. His hands had been badly burned when he climbed that hot drain pipe. With a leap, the boy threw his arms around the man’s neck and held on for dear life. The others silently walked away, leaving the boy and his rescuer alone. Those burned and scarred hands had settled the issue.
In the world today, there are many different voices calling for our attention. Among them is the one whose nail-pierced hands remind us that he has rescued us from sin and its deadly consequences. It is to him that we owe our love and devotion.
Michael Mattil is the pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Denison. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.