Heaven Kissed Earth: The Incarnation

What is the incarnation? It is the kissing of heaven and earth. 

To borrow a phrase from Thomas Goodwin, when the Son became flesh, "Heaven and Earth met and kissed one another, namely, God and man."

The incarnation makes theology possible. It makes communion with God possible. Whatever saving benefits we have as a result of the incarnation and Christ's obedience to death, we must never lose sight of the fact that Christ brings us to God (1 Pet. 3:18).

I'm probably - in fact, I am - in the minority of those who believe that the Son would have become incarnate, even if Adam had not sinned. (I may post on my reasons in the future). After all, as Professor Swain noted, piggybacking off Goodwin, "Christ did not come into the world for us, but we came into the world for Christ."

In the unity of the two natures there is the greatest distance involved. The creator is identified with a creature. In Christ, one sees eternity and temporality, eternal blessedness and temporal sorrow, almightiness and weakness, omniscience and ignorance, unchangeableness and changeableness, infinity and finitude. All of these contrasting attributes come together in the person of Jesus Christ. 

As Stephen Charnock so eloquently wrote many years ago:

"What a wonder that two natures infinitely distant should be more intimately united than anything in the world...That the same person should have both a glory and a grief; an infinite joy in the Deity, and an inexpressible sorrow in the humanity! That a God upon a throne should be an infant in a cradle; the thundering Creator be a weeping babe and a suffering man; the incarnation astonishes men upon earth, and angels in heaven."

The incarnation opens up the possibility of communion between God and man, which would otherwise be impossible. The Son, to use Warfield's words, "descended an infinite distance to reach man's highest conceivable exaltation" (Phil. 2:6-11). God cannot commune with man except by some form of voluntary condescension. The incarnation is not only a voluntary condescension, but also the most glorious form of condescension possible from God, because through Christ we are brought to God.

After all, if Jesus were in all things only a man, he would be, like us, at an infinite distance from God. In the same way, if Jesus were in all things only God, he would be at an infinite distance from us. As the Mediator, however, he bridges the gap between the infinite God and finite man. All that belongs to God, Jesus possesses. All that makes someone truly human, Jesus possesses. Charnock's words would be hard to better on this point: 

"He had both the nature which had offended, and that nature which was offended: a nature to please God, and a nature to pleasure us: a nature, whereby he experimentally knew the excellency of God, which was injured, and understood the glory due to him, and consequently the greatness of the offence, which was to be measured by the dignity of his person: and a nature whereby he might be sensible of the miseries contracted by, and endure the calamities due to the offender, that he might both have compassion on him, and make due satisfaction for him. He had two distinct natures capable of the affections and sentiments of the two persons he was to accord; he was a just judge of the rights of the one, and the demerit of the other."

Jesus learned and Jesus knew all things; Jesus died and Jesus gives life to all living creatures; Jesus drank from his mother's breasts and Jesus provided his mother the milk to feed him. Only the incarnation of the Son of God can explain such statements. 

The incarnation of the Son of God means that Jesus is forever God and man. He does not - indeed, he cannot - relinquish his humanity after ascending into heaven, as many Christians have imagined and still do today. The union is indissoluble; he is raised the Son of God in power (Rom. 1:4). The brilliant Dutch theologian, Abraham Kuyper, meditating on John 1:14, once wrote: "The Word has become flesh! It has become flesh never to be separated from that flesh again! Not even presently on the Throne...The Word having become flesh creates therewith the real possibility that this Child takes your place and that this Child of flesh and blood saves, reconciles, and glorifies you, made of flesh."
This shows us just how much God loves "flesh" (i.e., human nature). God is forever identified with humanity because of the incarnation. Thus, heaven will be a "fleshly" place. Not at all "sinful," but certainly a place where we will be more truly human than we are now. If our bodies and souls are to be redeemed, Jesus had to possess a body and soul, since whatever is not assumed by Jesus cannot be healed. One is not more important than the other, as though we yearn for the day when we can shed our bodies and live as "free-floating" souls. Far from it. We yearn for the day when our bodies and souls are both transformed into the likeness of Christ's glorious body (1 Jn. 3:2 "...we shall be like him"...). 

In sum,
Man's maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother's breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.
- Augustine of Hippo (Sermons 191.1)