As I’m looking into John’s prologue (1:1-18) for the thousandth time, I thought about two implications of the incarnation – the doctrine according to which “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).
First implication: Christianity is definitely not like any other religion.
In order to reach God and be allowed in his presence, most religions teach that we have to obey some kind of rules to deserve to be saved. That’s what we call salvation by works – according to our own efforts. But the revolutionary message of the Bible is exactly the opposite. Christianity isn’t about man trying to reach God but all about God reaching man, God coming down from heaven in the person of Christ (John 6:38), who lived the perfect life I could never live – by obeying the law perfectly on my behalf – and by dying the death I deserve. That’s what we call salvation by grace or undeserved favour – God gives us freely what we don’t deserve on the basis of what Christ has done if we repent and put our trust in him. In other words, as someone famously put it, religion says “Do!” whereas Christianity says “Done!” – Jesus has done it all. Doesn’t that make you want to love him and live for him? So if you want to reach God, get down the ladder and let yourself be touched by the grace and truth of Christ who came to save you.
Second implication: God can be found in a person.
In John 1:14, John uses a very special verb to describe the way Christ “dwelt” among us. In fact, Jesus literally “planted his tent” or “tabernacled” among us. Tabernacle – does that ring a bell? In the Old Testament, the tabernacle represents the place from where God speaks to his people (Leviticus 1:1) but also where the people can meet God – it’s the dwelling place of God’s glorious presence par excellence. But when John writes that Jesus “tabernacled” among us, it must have been a theological earthquake – especially for Jewish believers – in the sense that God doesn’t speak from the tabernacle anymore but from his Son, the “place” where you can actually meet him (see also Hebrews 1:1-3)! So if you’re looking for God, you won’t find him in a country or in a building but in a person, in the glorious Son of God who has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). Doesn’t that make you want to listen to him and believe in him?