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Day 6—The Incarnation Gives Us Clarity

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:1-18, ESV) 

Have you ever noticed the warning on a car’s side-view mirror? It says something like, “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.” The purpose is to advise the person in the car to be cautious because there is something nearby and the mirror distorts our understanding of their actual proximity. I’ve always associated this warning with the famous scene from Jurassic Park when the tyrannosaurus rex was chasing the vehicle, but recently, I was thinking about how this applies to the incarnation of Jesus. 

Before Jesus was born, God’s people had many ways by which to know God. They had prophets who spoke on God’s behalf. These men received a specific message or vision from God and then delivered it. They also had the Hebrew scriptures. Daily, people would gather and rabbis would read from a scroll and teach, often at the temple. There were regular feast days and spiritual practices such as observing the sabbath, prayer, fasting, and offerings. They also had the created world around them, which spoke to the power and majesty of God in creation. All of these things were intended to draw people’s eyes up toward heaven and behold the glory, love, and mercy of God. If we combined all of these things together, we would get a glimpse of the nature and character of God. It was like looking in the side view mirror of a car—they knew God was with them, but it wasn’t the full picture. God couldn’t be contained in any single practice, any specific feast, or in one teaching—God was much closer. When Jesus came on the scene, he became the object of our faith and caused us to shift our eyes away from the side view mirror in order to see God up close and personal. 

Jesus did what no man, rock, Psalm, or prayer could do—he reflected God perfectly. The author of Hebrews wrote, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God—the nature and character of God radiate from within him because the Father is in him and he is in the Father. Jesus told Philip, “Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father” (John 14:9, ESV). Jesus is the exact imprint of God because he is God. Jesus is God—up close and personal. 

So what? Do we give up reading the Bible, praying, going to church, and listening to good teaching because Jesus came and gave us the big picture? No—quite the opposite! It is precisely because Jesus came down that we can connect rightly with God through any or all of those means. He clarified the motivation behind them and demonstrated how to know and love God more intimately through them. Jesus is the model—through him, we are able to recognize the nearness of God in all of these practices. 

A prayer: Jesus, thank you for showing us how to connect with the Father in this life. Show us where our heart motivations are wrong and draw our gaze away from the side view mirror and toward you—the object of our faith. We love you, Lord. We ask these things in your name. Amen. 

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