Flesh

Jesus Christ came in the flesh so his flesh could die for my sins

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Read: 1 John 4:1-6

This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. (1 John 4:2)

Reflect:

This Easter Friday, it is good for me to reflect upon what it means that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.” Later on, John commends the divinity of God to his readers as a crucial doctrine (4:15), but here John is emphasising Jesus’ humanity.

Jesus is not solely the Son of God, he is also a Man, enfleshed. This duality of nature is the doctrine of Two Natures. So why should believing this doctrine be a defining mark of Christians?

Jesus Christ has come in the flesh: we no longer wait (as contemporary Jews still do) for a Messiah. We have one – he has come and he has died on a cross.

Jesus Christ has come in the flesh: he was subject to suffering and temptations just as I am, yet he never sinned. Jesus died sinless and innocent, the perfect, blemish-free sacrifice for sins.

Jesus Christ has come in the flesh: he is truly human so his death for my sins is a true one-to-one correspondence for the death I should have died for my sins. He came in flesh so he could truly take my place and carry my burden.

Jesus Christ has come in the flesh: his death was a real death, not some mystical or metaphorical experience, but a real loss of life. He took his last breath, his heart stopped beating, his blood began to coagulate and separate into red blood and plasma. He was really alive with a human body, and really dead with a human corpse.

Jesus Christ has come in the flesh: able to bear my sins in his body on the cross.

Crux:

Jesus Christ came in the flesh so his flesh could die for my sins.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

It’s Easter Friday and you know I was half-expecting the Bible passage I read today to providentially refer directly to Jesus’ death on the cross. I was almost surprised when it didn’t. (You know you’ve stunned me with the timeliness of my Bible reading before.) Yet I don’t feel compelled to read on right now, there’s so much meat here for me (oops, seriously, that was an unintended pun, God).

LORD, I can’t get my head around the fact that Jesus Christ, true God of true God, came in the flesh. Yet I know it is a fact. Jesus Christ was always true God; he was and now is and always will be true man as well. How this might be, I do not know, but I do know that it is true: Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. He came in the flesh to die for me and for all who believe in him.

You know this is a sticking point, a stumbling block, for my father. He doesn’t believe that One who is God could also die as a man. Please help him to accept this truth, LORD. Grant him your Spirit, the Spirit of truth, so that his spirit will acknowledge Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Please do not let him listen any more to the spirit of the antichrist, the spirit of falsehood. Save him, LORD, as you have saved me, by the death of your Son, Jesus Christ, who has come in the flesh.

Amen.

Given

I am a gift from God the Father to Jesus his Son.

Read: John 6

And this is the will of him who sent me: that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. (John 6:39-40)

“You do not want to leave to, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69)

Reflect:

These verses explain several fundamental Christian doctrines in Jesus’ own words, using the standard Jewish poetical form of parallelism*. The will of God is mentioned twice in the beginning of each of the parallel statements.

What is the will of God?

According to the first statement, that Jesus shall have, keep and never lose all of those whom God the Father has given to him. All of these people are given to Jesus and will never be lost by Jesus. This is the Calvinist doctrines of unconditional election and perseverance of the saints.

According to the second statement and taking into account the parallelism of the statements, all those who are given to Jesus shall look to Jesus and believe in him, and thereby have eternal life. This is the Reformation doctrine of Salvation by Faith Alone.

According to both statements, that Jesus will “raise up” all these people at the last day. This is the second century doctrine expressed in the Apostle’s Creed as “the resurrection of the body”.

Crux:

I am a gift from God the Father to Jesus his Son. Verily, this truth strikes me with awe.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Whom have I in heaven besides you? You are Unity and Trinity, Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, just and merciful, compassionate and holy. I bow in awe of your majestic magnificence and in gratitude for your gracious and precious will for me.

Thank you, Father, for giving me to Jesus, your Son, so that I would believe in him whom you sent, so that I would have eternal life.

You have the words of eternal life, the ways by which all your will for me has been and shall be accomplished. Jesus is the Holy One, Christ, Messiah, King, Lord, Saviour, Sacrifice.

Thank you for giving me to Jesus so that I, like Simon Peter, may believe and know all this.

Please help me to tell others the truth about Jesus, today and as part of my everyday ordinary life that I live for your everlasting glory.

Amen.

* Rhetorical Ramble:

Parallelism is a rhetorical scheme of balance, a poetical figure of equality. (See what I did there?) It’s a bit like a written echo.

According to my Oxford Dictionary of English, parallelism is “the use of successive verbal constructions in poetry or prose which correspond in grammatical structure, sound, metre, meaning etc.” The base word parallel comes from Greek words meaning “alongside one another”.

So in parallelism, two (or more) successive words or phrases or sentences follow the same pattern, either in their form or in their meaning.

Both these forms of parallelism may be seen in the first sentence of this rhetorical ramble, highlighted by the repetition of the words a and of. The word rhetorical matches poeticalscheme has the same meaning as figure and balance corresponds to equality. That last sentence provides another example of parallelism, in this case with three parallel sections of text, rather than the more common two.

Parallelism was common in Hebrew and Jewish writing. A plethora of examples can be found in the Old Testament book of Proverbs, such as these from Proverbs 1:8-9:

A: Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
A’: and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
B: They are a garland to grace your head
B’: and a chain to adorn your neck.

Whenever we observe parallelism of sentence structure in the Bible, we should ask ourselves whether there is also an implied equality of meaning.

But be warned! Be wise! The Bible’s authors also used antithesis, where the parallel structure is used to juxtapose contrasting ideas rather than matching ones (Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, Corbett & Connors). Proverbs 10:1 includes an example:

The proverbs of Solomon:
A: A wise son brings joy to his father,
A’: but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.