Practicing the Better: Jesus–Incarnation

When we come to Jesus, the connections between him and practicing the better are numerous. We can only hit the high spots in this series, and even then there is plenty to explore.  We begin with keynotes in his incarnation.

But even to do that, we have to begin where John explicitly began his gospel, and where the synoptic writers also began in their own ways: “In the beginning was the Word….[and] the Word became flesh” (John 1:1-14).  The astounding claim of Christianity is that Jesus was the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, who “made his home among us” (1:14). [1]

Paul continued the same message with his repeated emphasis on the pre-incarnate Christ–the “in the beginning” Person of the Godhead, through whom everything was made (Colossians 1:16, the same thing John said in 1:3). Revelation in the Bible rises to its highest peak in Paul’s description of the cosmic Christ (Colossians 1:15-20) and how Jesus is the manifestation of the Mystery, which is to “bring all things together in Christ, the things in heaven along with the things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10).

Putting the pre-incarnate Christ and the incarnate Jesus together, Paul wrote that we see “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6), words akin to ones Jesus himself spoke, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).  E. Stanley Jones has captured all this in one sentence, “Jesus puts a face on God.” [2]

Far from being abstract theology, this message is the foundation upon which practicing the better stands.  In Jesus what we learn that light, life, and love have the imprimatur of God on them–the moral impact of eternity in them. In the Word made flesh we have the high-water mark of revelation to know what practicing the better is meant to be.

[1] I encourage you to read Richard Rohr’s book, ‘The Divine Dance,’ co-authored by Mike Morrell (Whitaker House, 2016).  In addition to being a credible study of the Trinity, the book shows how (contrary to popular belief) a recovery of the Trinity is a necessary element in the renewal of our lives, indeed of the whole planet.

[2] E. Stanley Jones, ‘The Word Became Flesh’ (Abingdon Press, 1963), 32.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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