During this Christmas season, I’m reflecting on the implications of understanding that Jesus was born as a boy, who grew to be a man in this same world we share. In my last three posts, I shared the first and second reasons that are vitally important to keep in mind, during Christmas and always. As important as these first two are, the third reason is the most important one for our salvation.
We talk much about the fact that our Savior must be fully God to be an adequate payment for our sin. We have rebelled against an Infinite and Holy God. So our Savior must be Holy, or He would have His personal sin to pay for. Our Savior would also have to be Infinite, to pay the infinite debt we owe. Only God himself fits this description. So by being fully God Jesus is able to be an adequate substitute and therefore our Savior.
There is another side to this coin. Our Savior must not only be an adequate substitute. To be our Savior requires he also is an equal substitute. It is we humans who have sinned against our good, loving yet just Creator and Lord. So in His justice, He requires we—humans—pay the penalty for this rebellion.
The only other option is that another human like us pay the penalty in our place. This substitute must be “one of us” who has experienced all we have experienced, yet without rebelling and therefore not having to his own sin to pay for. Only such a person could be an equal substitute. So if Jesus were not fully human, he would not be an equal substitute, and so He could not be our Savior. But he was fully human, and so was the proper (equal) substitute! As the author of Hebrews puts it,
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil–and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)
Here’s another facet of this truth. If Jesus is not truly human, then his death was not a real death. If the latter, it was only an illusion–it didn’t really happen. But, as the Scriptures say, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin” (Hebrews 9:22). No, he needed to be a real person, with a real body, including real blood, so that he could really die and therefore really save us.
So, the Incarnation is the “ultimate” Christmas present—God coming as one of us to do what none of us could do—save ourselves from the mess we had made and the horrible consequences we were facing. It is hard to believe, but even if you or I were the only humans who ever lived, there would still be Christmas!
This should cause us to celebrate this gift every day, not just on December 25th!
Until next week, grace and peace.