During tonight’s Good Friday service I found myself reflecting on Jesus (which is like saying one should remember to chew when eating food or pull up the emergency brake when parking on a hill).
Jesus, as we all know, died and rose again to reconcile fallen humanity to God and Holy Week is the time of year when Christians, except those odd Jewish root dispensationalists we run into on Facebook, commemorate and celebrate Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. When I was growing up, and for a large part of my early adult life, everything revolved solely around the Cross. The Cross, the shed blood, the atonement, these are all that mattered (well, the miracles mattered too because we were expected to be able to do “greater works than these” but thats another story for another time). The Incarnation was largely a footnote, an act of divine trickery that God, according to popular teachers in my old tradition, had to do in order to pull a fast one on the devil as the devil had legal rights over all of the earth due to Adam’s sin. So Jesus is God’s “back-door” way of setting everything right since God has no “legal” way of operating in the earth as he needs a human being’s permission to do so, hence the Incarnation. This is ridiculous nonsense.
It was only much later that I began to read and interact with a very different sort of theology that showed me that every part of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection has something to accomplish for our salvation. The Incarnation is not a back door nor is it a way for God to get a secret foot-hold. The Incarnation of the Son of God shows us that Jesus stands as the divine and human mediator, mediating his divinity to us and mediating our humanity to God. Only the God-Man can do this. The Incarnation is much more than an odd aside in the overall story of the atoning work of Christ. Without the Incarnation, without God becoming human, the sacrifice of the Cross would have been completely meaningless and utterly powerless.
In his classic book On the Incarnation of the Word of God, St Athanasius wrote, “Therefore the Word of God took a body and used a human instrument, in order to give life to the body and in order that, just as he is known in creation by his works, so also he might act in a human being and show himself everywhere, leaving nothing barren of his divinity and knowledge… the Savior did this in order that as he fills everything everywhere by his presence, so also he might fill all things with the knowledge of himself…” In other words the Word used a human instrument so that his divinity would infuse all human beings who will receive him, and not just human beings but the entirety of creation.
The Incarnation matters. All is lost without it.