SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
5TH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY
FEBRUARY 10, 2019
Title: “The Incomparable Christ”
Text: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Scripture Reading: John 1:1-5, 10-14
One day a six-year-old lad came to his mother with this question: “Mother, who made God?” Instantly the mother’s face expressed astonishment and chagrin. Presently she said curtly, “What an awful question to ask. You had better run along and play.” In that same country community another lad approached his mother, and asked, “Did God make Himself?” His mother presently left her work and breathed a silent prayer. Taking off her wedding ring, she gave it to her son and asked, “Where does this ring begin and where does it end?” Before long the boy answered, “There is no starting place and stopping place to a ring.” The mother remarked, “Just so is God. There is no beginning and no end to God. He always has been and always will be.” This story is similar to the many encounters I have with many children children and adults. At Family and Friends recently, the high school kids were asking similar questions about God and Jesus Christ.
Where do you begin when you start to talk about Jesus Christ? If your subject were some outstanding historic figure, you would begin with his beginning: his birth, parentage, and heritage. But with Jesus, there was truly no beginning, for he said of himself, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). Therefore one can begin anywhere and start talking about Jesus and never get it all said! But we will attempt to choose some of the most basic facts concerning Jesus Christ that are found in God’s Holy Word the Bible.
This is a staggering concept for the human mind. For us, everything has a beginning. But the Bible teaches conclusively that Christ had no beginning; he existed eternally with the Father. John prefaces his gospel with the declaration, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). In other words, he is saying that Jesus goes back beyond the beginning of the creation of humanity. In John 17 Jesus prayed, “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (v.5 NIV).
Not only does Christ exist eternally, but John records in Revelation that Jesus came as “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (13:8). Because God is omniscient, he knew that people would sin even before he created them. Therefore, because God’s nature is love, he provided a way for people to be reconciled to their Creator before they were made! In that dateless past, “love drew salvation plan,” and “In the fullness of time” Jesus came as the foreordained sacrifice for the sins of the world. Paul said it like this: “When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5)
From the Bible itself, we have abundant evidence concerning the preexistence of Jesus before he was born of Mary. In fact, both John and Paul ascribe the very works of creation to Christ. John said, “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that we made, speaking of the “Word,” that became flesh (John 1:3). Paul wrote, “By him all things were created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16). Thus we must conclude by faith that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit has always existed as one God in purpose and equality.
Another truth about Christ from the Word of God is his earthly manifestation. When we consider the incarnation, God becoming man, there are two important truths we must hold with all the tenacity faith provides for us. First, Jesus became at the same time and in an absolute sense both God and man. He did not “become God” at the baptism and “cease to be God” at his death. When he was born in Bethlehem, he was God; when he ascended from Mount Olivet, he was God! Second, in becoming flesh, Jesus, though he laid aside his heavenly glory, in no sense laid aside his deity. This has to be true, for his full deity and complete humanity were necessary if his death on the cross was to have redeeming value for humanity.
Our text declares that Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us.” Dwelt here means “tabernacled.” Jesus “pitched his tent” as a person among people. In the miracle at Bethlehem, God became what he had never been before. God became Jesus of Nazareth. Furthermore, John said that he was “full of grace and truth.” Some say that Jesus was no more than “a good man” or perhaps “the best man who ever lived,” but they stop short of admitting that he was God. John declared that Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” The Greek word for “truth” is formed from the word concealed, or hidden, with the Greek word alpha added to it, giving it the opposite meaning. So “truth” literally means “the unconcealed.” Until Jesus came, God Almighty was at least partially hidden from humanity in an aura of majesty and transcendency. He was, for the most part, unapproachable by humankind. Thus people had a poor, limited concept of God as a personal God. Jesus came and “unconcealed” God: he became the complete revelation of God.
The book of Hebrews says that Christ was “tempted in all points, like as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). Here we see Jesus humanity in that God allowed Satan to do everything he could to deter Jesus from the cross. This was necessary not to see if Jesus was truly God, but to prove that he was God.
It is important to glean from our text, Jesus Christ in his present ministry. When Jesus ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives, he did not leave behind just a fond memory of himself in the hearts of his followers. He had told them, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). What about his present ministry in heaven? He is completing in heaven the work he began on earth. The phrase “right hand of God,” describing Jesus’s position now in heaven, is a symbol of his power, authority, and glory. Part of his present ministry in heaven is the preparation of an abode for his church. He said to his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2) At the same time, he has kept his promise and sent the Holy Spirit to fashion the church and to prepare it as his bride. Two glorious projects are underway simultaneously: God is preparing heaven for us and us for heaven.
But that’s not all. Christ also intercedes for us. Every Christian has a redeemed soul, but that soul is housed in an unredeemed body that sometimes disobeys and dishonors God. Often we find ourselves crying as Paul did, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). On the basis of his complete sacrifice on the cross, Jesus is our intercessor before the throne of grace. He takes our imperfect prayers, perfects them, and offers them to God as a sweet smelling savor.
Finally, Christ’s present ministry in heaven brings to completion and perfection the three Old Testament offices: prophet, priest, and king. After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit was manifested in him “without measure.” Therefore, possessing all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit without measure, he has the full knowledge of a prophet, the perfect holiness of a priest, and the absolute power of a king. A prophet spoke to the people about God and declared God’s word to them. Jesus was the very embodiment of that word. A priest mediated between people and God; Jesus suffered in humankind’s place, satisfied the divine holiness of God, and opened the way for people to be reconciled to God. Kingship is one of Christ’s eternal prerogatives. He was born a king; during his earthly life, he asserted his kinship and people recognized his claim. His resurrection proved his sovereignty as King of Kings and Lords of Lords.
Now as we anticipate Christ’s return, Christians rejoice in the prospective majesty of the Son of God, for Jesus will in reality be crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords.