What did it mean for the Word of God to become a real human being?

images-copy-108Over at ‘The Bible and Culture‘ Ben Witherington has an excellent meditation on what Incarnation really means. Here’s a taste from part way through the post:

While the hymn (i.e. Philippians 2:5-11) is clear that the Son was ‘in very nature God’ at the same time he chose before he became human not to take advantage of his divine prerogatives. What were those? I call them the omnis– omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence. Humans have none of these powers, though I have known a few megalomaniacs who thought they knew it all or had all power. What does it mean though for the Son to put all of that on hold, so to speak, to not draw on his omni-competencies?

It means, I take it, that while Jesus had a God button, and he could have pushed it when he got in a difficult situation, he refused to do so because it would have meant the end of his living a truly human life with all its inherent limitations. Look at the temptation scenes in Lk. 4 and Mt. 4. Now a moment’s reflection will show that these are no mere normal temptations. The Devil is saying ‘if you are the divine Son of God, then turn these stones into bread’. I have known some humans who could turn bread into stones, but not the reverse of that. Jesus, in other words, was tempted to act in such a way that he would obliterate his true humanity. And he refused to do so. Thus, for example when it says in Mk. 13.32 that even the Son doesn’t know the timing of the second coming, it means…. wait for it ‘the incarnate Son of God did not know’. Did he have access to such information? Yes, but he refused to draw on such knowledge. Notice as well that Jesus did not perform his miracles on the basis of his divinity. To the contrary he performed them by the power of the Holy Spirit as he says ‘if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons…’ And herein lies a key to why Paul can say ‘have this mind in yourselves that is also in Christ Jesus’.

There’s a lot more, and it’s all good. Read the rest here.

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