Incarnation of Jesus

Preaching and Worship Resources about Incarnation of Jesus

The incarnation is the historic event (around 4 b.c.) in which the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, took on human nature and human flesh and blood, and thus joined the human race.

In Scripture

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14).

"For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6).

"Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 1:18).

"All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: `Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,' which means, `God is with us'" (Matt. 1:22 - 23).

"The angel said to her, `The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God'" (Luke 1:35).

"[T]he Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).

"[T]he gospel [is of] his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 1:3 - 4).

"For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 8:3 - 4).

"For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich" (2 Cor. 8:9).

"[W]hen the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children" (Gal. 4:4 - 5).

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness" (Phil. 2:5 - 7, NIV).

"Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb. 2:14).

"Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great: He was revealed in flesh, vindicated in spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory" (1 Tim. 3:16).

"By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God" (1 John 4:2).

Points to Ponder

The enfleshment of the eternal Son of God The incarnation is literally the enfleshment of the eternal Son of God resulting, as the Apostles' Creed professes, from being "conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary." (See also "Jesus Christ's humanity.")

The anointed one Old Testament prophets predicted the coming of a special person to be a victorious king or a suffering servant — maybe both, but in any case one who would be "the anointed one," the Messiah, or, in Greek, "the Christ." The Messiah would be the greatest of men, a twig growing out of the trunk of King David that would eventually dwarf David himself. Or else, as the prophets sometimes put it, the one to come would be a twig growing out of the Lord (Isa. 4:2). The Messiah would be called "Mighty God" (Isa. 9:6) or "God-with-us" (Isa. 7:14). He would be the Lord himself suddenly coming to his temple (Mal. 3:1). In other words, the Messiah might be human or he might be divine, but in either case he would save his people.

What few imagined is that the Messiah would be both human and divine. Nobody foresaw explicitly that God (or, more exactly, the eternal Son of God) would come in the flesh. By the time of Jesus' birth, most of his contemporaries were looking more for a man than for God, and more for a political champion than for a suffering servant. They wanted somebody who could get Rome off their back and Caesar out of their hair. They were looking for a man who could become their king.

What they got was their King who had become a man — the eternal Son of God incarnate, the Son of God now with a thumbprint and, for all we know, seasonal hay fever. Trying to describe the novelty of the incarnation, the New Testament writers borrowed from every source they could think of. They borrowed from wisdom literature and prophecy; they borrowed from history, poetry, and apocalypse. They strained to describe one who was simultaneously "the radiance of God's glory, the exact representation of his being" (Heb. 1:3, NIV) and also a particular Jew, the son of Mary, a man who had not especially impressed the people he grew up with (Mark 6:1 - 6).

Working all their sources, the inspired writers of Scripture tell us that he is the Son of God, Son of Man, Lord, and Christ. He is word and wisdom. The second Adam. The end of the law. The light of the world. He is high priest and apostle. Fulfilling prophetic promises, he is King of kings, but also the suffering servant who was obedient all the way to death on a cross. He is the sacrificial lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, but also the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.

As these last examples show, Jesus' mission was to die . The shadow of the cross fell across his cradle. The only Son of God was born in Bethlehem in order to absorb the inevitable penalty of our sin. Of course he came to do more than that — much more. The Scriptures offer multiple reasons for his coming. He came "to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). He came "to deal with sin" and to fulfill the law (Rom. 8:3 - 4). He came "to seek out and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). In his longest reach, he came "to gather up all things," or "to reconcile to himself all things" (Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:20). The Scriptures use a riot of terms and images to describe the force of Jesus' work, but one way or another they all say that Jesus Christ came to put right what we human beings had put wrong by our sin. Thus, he came in order to be "the atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10) and "to give his life a ransom for many" (Mark10:45).

His victorious resurrection and ascension round out the mission of the incarnation.

The honor conferred by the incarnation Over all the centuries, Christians have deeply felt the honor conferred by the incarnation. By choosing to assume our flesh, God has shared our lot and therefore dignified us. He is Emmanuel, God with us.


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.