“Connecting the spiritual with the physical”
Sunday, January 4, 2015
“Connecting the spiritual with the physical”
Dear Christian Friends:
On this 10th day of Christmas, may the peace and joy of Christ be with you.
Our text for the Second Sunday of Christmas from the first chapter of the gospel of John is an interesting comparison between the spiritual becoming physical, and the physical becoming spiritual.
The first and most important point that our text makes is that Jesus has existed since in the beginning of time as SPIRIT. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word WAS GOD. The word refers to Jesus. Jesus was from the beginning of time, he is a part of the eternal, almighty God. Jesus isn’t just a righteous or holy man who is filled with God’s spirit, Jesus isn’t like God, JESUS IS GOD. As God Jesus is Spirit who has existed for all time. He and God the Father are one entity.
The amazing thing is that this Spiritual being takes on human flesh and is born as a real human being. “The Word became flesh and lived among us.” The Spiritual becomes physical. How can that be? Well, Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit was somehow able to cause the virgin Mary to conceive and bear a child who is both of the Spirit and of the flesh. Jesus is not born by the will of a man, but by the will and by the power of God. The spiritual becomes physical.
Based upon this first chapter of John, the church has gone to great lengths over the centuries to define who Jesus is. On the one hand, Jesus is a completely human person just like you and me. Jesus was fully human. He relied on his mother to feed him and nurture him. He felt pain, he was hungry, and he was like us in every human way. Some people like to think that it wasn’t until the baptism of Jesus that the Holy Spirit came down and dwelt within the body of Jesus. However, this passage from John proclaims that the Word became flesh. The word did not dwell within the body of Jesus, the Word was flesh.
Jesus is both divine and has existed before he was born and he is fully human. He is unique as both God and man. That makes him the only person able to offer a sacrifice for the sins of the world. He is human so he can be sacrificed, yet he is divine so his sacrifice is a perfect sacrifice that only he can offer.
John in our text however is less interested in talking about the sacrifice Jesus is going to make, as much as he is about telling us that Jesus has come into the world to reveal the grace and love of God to humanity. Vs. 16-18 say, “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”
John focuses upon Jesus being a light in the world that fully reveals God. God is not just a God of law, God is a God of grace and love. It is Jesus who fully reveals this aspect of God. As Jesus has compassion on the sick, the poor and the outcast: we see the love of God revealed. As Jesus is willing to stoop and be a servant to others: we see the love of God revealed. As Jesus is willing to sacrifice his life for the life of the world: we see the love of God revealed. John doesn’t talk about sacrifice and atonement, John talks about Jesus revealing the grace of God.
So if we really want to know God, we need to look at God in the flesh: Jesus Christ. Nowhere else can we see God so clearly, as watching the life of Jesus: the word made flesh.
This is such a powerful text that defines for Christianity who Jesus is, and that through getting to know Jesus, the Word made flesh, we can get to know God the creator of the universe.
The second part of our text is how we who are flesh and blood can become spiritual. When we are born into this world, we are born of the flesh. We do not by nature have the spirit of God in us. So how is it that flesh can become spirit?
Vs. 12 states: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or the will of the flesh or the will of man, but of God.”
For us to become spiritual, we must be born again of God. In order to believe and be born again of God, God must act, to create faith. This can happen in two different ways. One of the ways is through baptism. Later, in John 3 we are told: That which is born of the flesh is flesh, that which is born of the spirit is spirit…you must be born again of WATER AND THE SPIRIT. There John tells us that the way we are born again is through baptism. God comes down in baptism and infuses in us the Holy Spirit. Now, that which is born of the flesh, can become born of the spirit. As our text says, God gave us power to become children of God. God sends his Holy Spirit upon us, God comes down, and we are born again of the Spirit.
For many people, the seed of the spirit that was planted in baptism as a child, has grown throughout their lives. Many people have had faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior most of their lives, and it happened at baptism. They might not remember being born again as infants, but God send the Holy Spirit, and faith began in their infancy.
Others have experienced being born again, as they have read the Bible or heard the word of God preached, and the Holy Spirit used the Word of God as a means to create faith in their hearts. When people come to know and believe in the love and grace of God as adults, it is often an emotional born again experience. Unlike a seed that is planted in infancy, it is a moment of discovery and new understanding. Many people, when the light bulb goes off, and they believe for the first time that God really does exist and God really does love them, and the hope and promise of eternal life with God is true: it’s an emotional moment. And sometimes, those of us who grew up knowing and believing in God all our lives, have those moments where we rediscover God’s presence, we can have those spiritual highs as well.
In the Lutheran church we call both baptism and the Scriptures: means of grace. They are both means through which the Holy Spirit conveys the grace and love of God to us.
So the universe is made up of two different realms: the spiritual and the physical. Christianity offers an explanation as to how those two realms interact. On the one hand, God who is spirit, takes on human flesh. When Jesus was born on that first Christmas, we were able to see in human terms the very nature of God. We saw Jesus become a man of compassion, of service, of sacrifice, and of love. The spiritual reality of God was lived out as a human being in the flesh. If we want to know God the spirit, get to know God the man, Jesus. On the other hand, God enters into our hearts and minds through the Holy Spirit. He does this through baptism and the Scriptures. In each case God uses physical elements to convey his grace and love in a physical world.
We live in a fallen physical world. Sin, suffering and death are the realities of this realm. But Jesus has come into our darkness to shed light on another realm. Heaven is a place where the fallen nature of this world gives way to the perfect love of God. Jesus reveals that God is love and it is possible to know God’s love in part within this fallen world now, and know God’s love in its fullness in the life to come.
Get to know Jesus, and you will get to know God and the fullness of God’s grace. AMEN