Heaven Came Down

D.A. Carson calls John’s prologue (vv. 1-18) “the foyer to the rest of the Fourth Gospel simultaneously drawing the reader in and introducing the major themes.” The major theological theme of the opening verses of John’s gospel is the incarnation. The incarnation is that miracle whereby the unapproachable, terrifyingly holy God who is perfect and who is spirit became a man. He did not simply disguise himself with skin. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God who is there truly became a man. And this, mysteriously, without sacrificing His deity. The incarnation means that God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son.

Here in the opening words John summarizes how the eternal “Word” was sent into the world to become the Jesus of history, “so that the glory and grace of God might be uniquely and perfectly disclosed” (Carson, 111). The rest of John’s Gospel is an expansion and interpretation of that theme.

Verse 14 says, “The Word became flesh and (literally) ‘tabernacled’ among us.” This is what we celebrate at Christmas. It is all about God miraculously tabernacling among His people. That’s why I don’t get upset when lost people, the government, or corporate entities do not wish me a “merry Christmas.” They most certainly do not mean, “May you be filled with joy due to the fact that in the person of Jesus God entered humanity that he might bear away the guilt and burden of our sin and bring us into fellowship with Himself.” Only my brothers and sisters in Christ can properly wish me a merry Christmas.

The incarnation is a profound mystery. It is God come to humanity through humanity. Christmas, the incarnation, is God with us. We contemporary Christians don’t much realize just how impossible this thought would have been to Old Covenant Jews. They understood that you did not survive a face-to-face with God. His glory is too great and His holiness too intense.

In Wichita where I previously served there is a local church that, in a radio add offered a “face-to-face encounter with God” at their Saturday evening service. Of course, they had better hope there is not a face-to-face encounter with God. But as ludicrous as that advertisement sounds, it would have sounded downright deadly to the Old Covenant people of God.

This is what the incarnation did: it made it possible for man to see God in a way that would bless instead of destroy. God told Moses, “No one may see me and live.” But something wonderful happens through the Lord Jesus. In verse 14 John says that he and the apostles “beheld His glory…” In the opening words of his first epistle John writes, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (I John 1:1).

This God who was unapproachable became, in the person of Jesus, One that could be seen, heard, and touched. The God who once said, “Stay away or die!” has now come down to us. Only God could bridge that gap. It had to happen on His terms. All attempts by man to bring God down or to ascend to where God is are met with frustration or destruction. God would come in a way that he could be seen and heard and touched. But it would be in the person of Jesus and only in the person of Jesus – the Word become flesh.