• Stephen Hill

God appears in human history

Another excerpt from my upcoming book on the Gospel of John…

“He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1: 10-13)

Even though the Creator of the world was present in the world, the world did not recognise Him. More specifically, His ‘own people’ (Israel) did not know Him and did not receive Him. Knowing and receiving God is a heart-issue. So prevalent is this world’s system with orphan-ness that their hearts were closed and not able to recognise the Son appearing from the Father’s bosom. The appearance of God into human history and circumstance is never recognised by a heart which is closed, for God appears in a humble disguise.

One of the great paradoxes of Christianity is that the in-breaking of God into human history came in the disguise of a helpless baby. God has not changed His modus operandi. He still appears in the guise of foolishness and weakness, when we least expect it, in the ordinary and the subversive. We need the eyes of the heart opened to recognise the appearance of God.

“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)

The most significant single event in all time up to this point is when the Word becomes flesh.

I am convinced that the full impact and ramifications of this particular reality – the clothing of the Divine in human flesh – have yet to fully dawn on the Church. Christian theology uses the word ‘incarnation’ to describe this reality. Incarnation literally means “the taking on flesh, the material manifestation of an entity, god or force whose original nature is immaterial.” The word ‘immaterial’ here means to be without matter, without tangible or physical substance.

Now, let us pause to consider this.

God, the eternal and pre-existent source of everything, who expresses Himself eternally in the Word, decided from His heart to become human. The Word became flesh.

Go and look at yourself in the mirror. Feel your skin, pass your hand through your hair, press your bones. Let your fingers run over your muscles and the contours of your physical form. Many people have a certain amount of shame or even disdain for the human body. But the human body, and the human soul is the place where God has purposed to live.

The Trinity has immense pleasure in becoming incarnate. Colossians 1:19-20 puts it like this:

“For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven…”

The coming of Jesus, the Eternal Expression, the Word, is for the purpose of reconciling all things on earth and in heaven. The reconciliation and re-joining of earth and heaven is top of God’s priority list. The corollary of that is that the division, the keeping apart of earth and heaven is top of Satan’s priority list. Heaven and earth are separated through the lies and allegations of the Accuser, through the hegemony of the knowledge of good and evil.

To look upon ourselves, seeing ourselves as naked and then to feel ashamed and attempt to cover our perceived nakedness with ‘fig leaves’ is to divide earth from heaven. Self-rejection, self-repulsion and self-discrimination are that which divide earth from heaven.

The nakedness of the baby in the manger in Bethlehem is the divine response to the fig leaves. The un-self-awareness of a newborn baby is a striking reminder of what it is to be without shame. A little baby does not have any consciousness of being told that it is naked. A newborn baby has no choice but to accept how lovely it is. It is only in the ‘orphan/adult’ awareness of the knowledge of good and evil that we reject ourselves as worthy to be the dwelling place of God.

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