The coming of Jesus, the Son of God, is the most extraordinary event in all of human history. We sometimes speak of history-changing events. The events concerning Jesus Christ are eternity-changing events.
Here are seven ways that the coming of Jesus revolutionized the relationship between God and the human race.
1. Incarnation: God with Us
God the Son became a human being. The mind boggles to explain how this is possible. God was en-fleshed into human existence; this is what ‘incarnation’ means. The incarnation of Jesus proves God’s absolute commitment to us. He was not content to merely be the judge of the world who would condemn us for what our sins deserve. Rather, God became one of us in order to save us. He is the ‘Immanuel’ prophesied by Isaiah long before, a name which means “God with Us” (Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 7:14). God is no longer merely over us. In Jesus, God is forever with us.
2. Life: God as Us
Because Jesus became truly human, he came to live under God as us. He identified with his people and joyfully calls us his brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:11). He lived a normal life in obscurity and without fanfare. He lived all of life in obedience to God’s law: something every Israelite in history had failed at. Then he submitted to his Father’s mission plan, even to the point of dying on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8).
This wasn’t easy. Jesus faced the same full range of human difficulties that we all do and overcame them as a human. It is hard to understand how this works. Jesus remained God throughout his incarnation, so it is easy to assume that Jesus found life effortless. However, we do Jesus a disservice when we don’t recognize the full and genuine humanity of his experience. The Bible says that he was tempted like us in every way, yet never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). That wasn’t just an extraordinary achievement; it was an extraordinary human achievement. Jesus learned by experience what it meant to obey God as a weak and suffering man (Hebrews 5:7-8). Jesus’ life was one of lowly, difficult, earthly, human experience. Jesus came as us to win salvation.
3. Cross: God for Us
Whilst we were sinful enemies of God, Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8-10). He died as a substitute for us. It was an extraordinarily unworthy trade given the infinite value of the Jesus’ life, and the depths to which we had descended in our sinful rebellion. The manner of his death screams of the unworthy depths of what he willingly did for us. He became the sacrificial lamb offered for slaughter, the hated convict sentenced to execution, the gutter-dwelling refuse of society that nobody could bear even to look at except for the purpose of mockery (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). He went to the cross out of love for us, so that we would be saved.
4. Resurrection: God through Us
Humanity was once given dominion over creation. In Adam we squandered it and devoted this gift to Satan and his lies (Genesis 2-3). At the Fall, creation became enemy territory to God and his plans. We became slaves to death, and Satan became the usurping “god of this world” (Ephesians 2:1-3; 2 Corinthians 4:4).
In his resurrection Jesus regained human authority over creation. Adam gave up rule to Satan; Jesus won it back again. God rules creation by his designated human ruler once more, only now that human ruler is both God and man. In his resurrection Jesus became the eternal King of Israel, the ‘Messiah’, in fulfilment of God’s promises to David that his kingly line would rule forever and that all nations would be his inheritance (2 Samuel 7:16; Psalm 110). Satan’s dominion is lost. Jesus will forevermore exercise the rule of God over creation through us, that is, through being the human king who won his creation back from the ravages of Satan, sin, and death.
5. Pentecost: God in us
Shortly before facing the cross, Jesus warned his followers that he would soon depart. He would send the Holy Spirit to be with them and to continue Jesus’ presence with them (John 14:16-18). Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not the same person. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are together the one God (the Trinity), but each is also themselves a distinct divine person. This is hard to understand but it is absolutely essential to the Christian faith.
Ask yourself: is Jesus with his people now? On the one hand, no: Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. His departure meant that he is physically absent from us and will be until he returns. But on the other hand, Jesus is with his people by means of his Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Because God is Trinity, to have one member of the Trinity is to have them all. This is why the New Testament can say “Christ dwells in you” (Romans 8:10; Galatians 2:20). That would be impossible for a physical human being to do (painful too). But by his Spirit, Jesus lives in us forevermore.
6. Ascension: Us with God
Jesus is presently in heaven at the Father’s side. It is extraordinary to say, but there is a real human being with God in heaven, representing us before the Father (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus is our mediator and representative; we are united to him by his Spirit. If he is in heaven with God, that means that we too are in heaven with God through him (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 3:2).
7. Return: God coming to us
Jesus promises to return to judge his enemies and save those who eagerly await his coming (Galatians 5:5; Philippians 2:20). Christians wait eagerly for Jesus’ coming because we haven’t received the fullness of salvation yet and we want it! So often we ache and groan under the burden of suffering, sin, and death. The good news is that Jesus is coming to us to save us from those things.
God is with us,
God lives as us,
God died for us,
God rules through us,
God lives in us,
God is coming to us.
We are already with God now whilst we wait.
These are truths worthy of regular reflection.