I'll admit it, singing old hymns can be like wrestling with your brother: they sure do bring back lots of familiar memories, but after a while they can wear you out singing them. Occasionally, however, there are those hymns that can still stir the fire in your soul -- easy to belt out & packed with powerful lyrics. One of those hymns for me is the song, "And Can it Be" by Charles Wesley. I love how Charles expresses the poetry of redemption in his lyrics, but there is one line in stanza three that can be rather confusing:
He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
Emptied himself? What does that mean? Is love the only divine quality he allowed the world to see concerning his Godhood; because being able to read minds, open blind eyes and heal a woman with an issue of blood was quite spectacular (Aren't those things only God can do)?
Well this Sunday in our John study we are going to be examining John's declaration, "The Word became Flesh." Scholars use a lot of fancy names to explain and describe this, with the chief among them being the "Incarnation." Incarnation means God becoming flesh, the Nicene Creed states it like this, "For us men, and our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and was MADE MAN." Think about that a second...How can the Creator of the universe clothe himself in human skin? And when he took on humanity did that change his basic essence as God, because as scripture teaches, "God is immutable, he does not change"?
Again, scholars have come to the rescue and have given us a word derived from the original Greek language, and called Jesus' condescension to earth the "Kenosis Theory." Kenosis means to empty; Jesus emptied himself of the attributes of divinity, and that is why Charles Wesley wrote his lyric. But this doesn't quite explain the actual reality of what happened at the incarnation and how Jesus lived his human life on earth. To expand the meaning another word to use is "veiled." Look a it like this...
The light represents the co-equal divine essence of the Son of God, and the paper bag represents the human body he was willing to take on, or like a pull-over to veil his divinity. Veiling suggests that he never gave up his full power, he only covered it with true humanity. And by the words "true humanity" it means Jesus became like us in every way, he felt the fragility of the human experience fully, just as we do: all the way from a babbling baby, an awkward teen, to a full-grown man. Jesus, the Son of God, understands!
As you get ready for Sunday's sermon, I have listed some verses for you to study and meditate on:
(1) Philippians 2:5-7 - "What did Jesus give up to become a man?"
(2) Hebrews 2:14-18 - "How much of a man did Jesus become?"
One last thing: The incarnation and Kenosis hasn't stopped; God's desire is to keep putting on human flesh by veiling himself in the lives of modern day people. And he wants to do this miracle through you (Galatians 1:15-16)!
The question is, will you let him?
(An informational side-note: I have decided to make more strategic use of this blog. Each week I will post three different topical discussions:
Mondays: A "current events" discussion. Our world is crazy & people seem to be unconsciously swimming in the flow of it's craziness. I want to help stop the current from drowning the integrity and testimony of true Christians.
Wednesdays: A "wacky Wednesday" discussion. I want to provoke people to think; my mind is weird and I cant stop it, so we will just see what comes out of it on Wednesdays.
Fridays: Sermon prep. day. I want to give you an opportunity to mentally track with the sermon, so I will give a number of theological, historical and philosophical underpinnings to the sermon so you can gain more insight on just how deep the bible goes.
So if you are willing, join me and my meanderings! Godspeed.)