“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
In John 1:14, John uses an interesting word—the word translated “dwelt.” He only uses it one other time (7:2), when he’s referring to the Festival of Shelters (or Booths or Tabernacles). This word dwelt could be translated “pitched his tent” and would instantly remind anyone familiar with the Old Testament of the tabernacle. The tabernacle was instituted by God as the place where he would dwell in the midst of the people of Israel. It was the forerunner of the temple; it was a tent that went before the children of Israel as they made their way to the promised land. Within the tabernacle was the most holy place, where God came to meet man. Just as God came to meet man in the tabernacle, he came to meet man in the person of Jesus. Worship for the Jews centered on the tabernacle and then the temple, but once Jesus came, he became the center of worship. Only through Jesus could man be brought to God.
This is the mystery of the Incarnation, namely, that the Word who was “with God, and … was God” (1:1), took upon Himself flesh: He became man. Without ceasing to be God through whom all things were made, He concurrently became man by assuming our flesh. Thus is He Emmanuel—“God with us” (Matt. 1:23)—in the person of Jesus Christ.
Before proceeding further, we must pause a moment to reflect on the wonder, the awesomeness, the utterly amazing character of the Incarnation. This event is a fact of such proportions as to transcend human imagination: the God of the universe, the Creator of all things invisible and visible—angelic hosts as well as countless galaxies and stars—has in Jesus Christ come to this minute planet called Earth and taken upon Himself our human existence. If the original creation of the universe out of nothing is an immeasurably vast and incomprehensible act of Almighty God, the Incarnation is surely no less stupendous.
Superlatives will not suffice. Perhaps best are the words of Paul: “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion: He was manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). Great indeed! And the purpose of the Incarnation (again one is carried beyond adequate words to declare it) is the redemption of the human race. Jesus was born to die and in dying to bear the awful weight and punishment of the sins of all mankind.
He came as the Mediator of the covenant of grace, the “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:5). In the words of the Fourth Gospel, the Word who “became flesh” was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14) and “from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace” (1:16). Verily, it is the unfathomable grace of God bringing eternal salvation.
That this matter of the personhood of Christ is of signal importance is evidenced by the fact that Jesus inquired of His own disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15). How one answers this question is far more than theoretical or of little practical consequence. Rather, it relates to the ultimate issues of life and eternity.