Recently, I went to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art with my 1st-grade grandson Uris class field trip. Although I really didnt see that experience coming, you have not lived until youve tried to shepherd a bunch of 1st-grade boys through a museum. Early in our visit, we found ourselves in a room full of Baroque paintings, many of them portraying Biblical subject matter. I tried and failed to get the boys interested in a rather lurid image of the beheading of John the Baptist.
Then I heard a voice ring out at a level decidedly above that appropriate for an art museum. Hey, thats God!”
I looked to my left and saw a painting that portrayed a group of soldiers and henchmen crowning Jesus with thorns. Thats Jesus, I pointed out, not exactly correcting the boy.
Yes, thats God. Jesus is God.
This boys mother happened to be the other adult in our group of six energetic boys. She found herself caught in the same slightly awkward spot as I did. Apparently she agreed with her sons identification, but the matter was slightly more complex than he was making it. On the other hand, she recognized that this room at the art museum was not the place for an in-depth exploration of the theology of incarnation.
The idea of a deity taking on human flesh is not completely unique to Christianity. In Greek myth, gods and goddesses were constantly popping up in human form attempting to seduce a genuine human or to impart some bit of knowledge. The distance between Greek god and man, however, was not all that immense. Zeus, after all, was not the creator of the universe. He didnt even create the world.
When the Word takes on flesh, things are different. Jesus suffered through 33 years of human life, 33 years of smelly, petty, stupid, selfish people. Long before a few hours of arrest and trial, beating and crucifixion, Jesus suffered in the flesh in ways that make my field trip with Uri seem trivial.
I have written elsewhere that Easter and the resurrection of Jesus changed everything. Thats true, but in reality, the first game changer came when the Word became flesh, when God wrote Himself into the drama of human existence