What if God was one of us?
Gabriel She struck the angel Gabriel as hardly old enough to have a child at all, let alone this child, but he’d been entrusted with a message to give her, and he gave it. He told her what the child was to be named, and who he was to be, and something about the mystery that was to come upon her. ‘You mustn’t be afraid, Mary,’ he said. As he said it, he only hoped she wouldn’t notice that beneath the great, golden wings he himself was trembling with fear to think that the whole future of creation hung now on the answer of a girl.
Frederick Buechner, Peculiar Treasures. Read the story in Luke 1:26-35 here
The Story so Far… Ever since that mind-blowing experience on Mount Sinai with Moses, God had been trying to keep his rebellious people more or less on track. He drew as straight as he could with the crooked and fragile lines of their lives. God sent a long line of prophets to announce a new punishment or a new blessing depending on how faithful to God his people had been. And then things just kind of petered out … God stopped speaking. For Four. Hundred. Years. (that’s quite a long time)
The religious authorities got nervous. People began asking questions: What was going on? What about the promised return home? Has God finally come to his senses and given up on us? What was happening with the Relationship Rescue plan our ancestors were so excited about? Were all those prophecies about someone who would save everyone wrong?
And then one day, quietly, some strange things began to happen. Rumours of angels began to circulate. A few people who remembered the Old Story started to pay attention. But looking back afterwards no-one – no-one – could admit that had the slightest idea of what God was about to do. Human beings had been very good at demonstrating how bad they were at keeping their side of the relationship agreement with God. Now God was going to solve that puzzle by becoming human himself. A holy human being who would finally be able to faithfully obey what God asked. Thing is: if you’re God, then becoming a human is quite messy, and a bit limiting:
- The One who formed the stars became an embryo growing inside a young woman’s womb.
- God stepped out of a timeless eternity and became captive to time – measured by his heartbeats
- Stepping back a bit from the beauty and joy of an intimate relationship with God in heaven, Jesus had to learn what it felt like to be lonely and hungry, how to endure pain.
The technical word for what Jesus went through was incarnation. The root of that word is that same as the word carnivore. Jesus – who had been there with God since before the beginning, was about to become a piece of meat – well, more or less. John wrote what is probably the best description of what Jesus did.
The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one. Everything was created through him;nothing—not one thing!— came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.
… The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
… No one has ever seen God, not so much as a glimpse. This one-of-a-kind God-Expression, who exists at the very heart of the Father, has made him plain as day.
John 1: 1-18. Read the whole text here
That was the mission – to show us what the invisible God was like, to bring grace into the world, to finally do something about sin and evil.
One of Us
A singer called Joan Osborne once wrote a song called One of Us that went:
If God had a name what would it be? And would you call it to his face? If you were faced with Him in all His glory What would you ask if you had just one question? …What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us Just a stranger on the bus Tryin’ to make his way home?
Jesus was God becoming one of us. The writer of Hebrews says that because Jesus did that God knows first-hand what it is like to be human with a body; to be hungry and tired, to be tempted, to suffer, even to die.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Hebrews 4:15
Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted, he knows what pain – emotional and physical – feels like, he knows what it is like to live in a fragile body in a broken world. There is no other god who can make this kind of claim.
The Most Crazy Thing This massive act of submission by Jesus might make a bit more sense if it was for just a little while. The Gospels say Jesus was about 33 years old when he died. I guess in the context of eternity that’s not a very long time. The amazing truth, really, is that when Jesus got himself a meaty body and became a man – it was forever. Jesus will always be human – fully human and fully God. There was no expiry date on Jesus’ decision to become like one of us.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body Philippians 3:20-21
Your Story and God’s Story
What difference does it make to know that Jesus was also a teenager once – with bad skin, unpredictable hormones and crazy dreams for the future?
Jesus knows what life is like at your age. How could that change the way you talk to him now?
One of the most significant parts of the story is when Mary said to (the trembling?) Gabriel: ‘Ok, I’m willing to do this.’ How willing are you to say the same thing in response to the things that God is forming inside you?
The best response to finding out something this amazing about God is to worship. If that’s something you’re willing to do, how could you do that now?