And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). This is one of my favorite Advent texts. I would like to extract four features of the incarnation that are embedded in these concise yet comprehensive words of the Apostle John.
First of all, we see the mystery of the incarnation. A mystery is something that is difficult to understand or explain. In the first five verses of John 1, the Apostle makes it clear that “the Word” is a divine and eternal person. Contrast the exalted attributes of the eternal God with what you know about the limitations of human flesh (even before the fall), and you’ll see why I say that the incarnation is a mystery. We celebrate those who start low and ascend to great heights and we pity those who are exalted and descend to a lower status. In the incarnation, the eternal Word became flesh.
Second, there is a beauty to the incarnation. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Christ was like us in every way except sin (2:17). Mankind is the apex of God’s creation, and even in mankind’s state of corruption after the fall, the human capacity to reason, build, and interact with fellow humans is a reflection of the Creator’s intention. So in spite of our greatest accomplishments, the specter and stain of sin render us incapable of the glory for which we were created. But the Word incarnated in love and harmony both vertically and horizontally is a beautiful display of the image of God in human flesh.
Third, this verse points us to the necessity of the incarnation. In Hebrews 10:5 we read, “When Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me.’ ” In our fallenness, we were unable to do the will of the Father and unable to pay the debt of our sin. Therefore, the Word became flesh, and in that flesh, He did the will of the Father in our place and with His flesh He bore the punishment for our sins.
Fourth, John’s words here remind us of the hope of the incarnation. Even apart from sin, human flesh is limited. But because of sin we inherit flesh that is failing and fading. In 2 Corinthians 4:16, Paul says that the outward man is perishing every day. So, the fact that the Word was made flesh and in that flesh perfectly kept the law and bore the penalty of the law and bodily rose from the dead is the assurance that we who look to Him and cling to Him by faith will indeed put off mortality and put on immortality. We will put off the corruptible and put on the incorruptible (1 Cor. 15:53–54). As John says elsewhere, “What we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). And that is the hope of the incarnation.