The Incarnation – God in human form
The word itself means ‘in flesh’. Christians believe God became human in the person of Christ, “The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us” (John 1:14)
For Christians, it is important that Jesus is both fully God (divine) and fully human at the same time. Some Christians accept that Jesus’ birth was miraculous in that He was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit rather than by sexual intercourse to the Virgin Mary. Others would say that the story is simply a myth to show that Jesus was both God and human at the same time.
The importance of the incarnation for Christians cannot be underestimated. It is viewed as the ultimate act of love by God and meant that God fully understood what it was like to live a human life.
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we ought to love one another” (1 John 4)
This emphasis on love has influenced Christians in terms of their behaviour. Many Christians would say that it is vital that they try to show love towards other people:
- Mother Teresa supported the poor and sick in Calcutta
- Father Kolbe offered his own life to save another in Auschwitz
- Martin Luther King fought tirelessly to challenge the racism seen in the United States
Jesus was arrested and crucified after being charged with blasphemy, speaking against God by the Jewish authorities who viewed him as a danger to their faith. The Roman authorities also feared Jesus as many people started to follow him and this challenged their authority.
According to the Gospel of Mark, at the moment of Jesus’ death the temple curtain ripped in two. This curtain surrounded the inner sanctuary in the temple and represented the barrier of sin that existed between God and mankind caused by the sin of Adam and Eve. The curtain ripping represented the breaking of the barrier through Jesus death on the cross. The way was now open once again for God and mankind to be reunited.
Why did the Son of God have to die?
Jesus’ death on the cross allowed for God and mankind to be reunited. Through the sin of Adam and Eve the relationship between God and mankind was damaged. Jesus death would ATONE (make up) for this gap.
- On the cross Jesus took on the consequences and punishment for human sin. His death was a sacrifice which paid back the debt caused by Adam and Eve
- This was God trying to rebuild the relationship between God and mankind
- The event inspires Christians today to try and make the first move when it comes to repairing broken relationships
How was Jesus’ death an act of atonement and reconciliation?
Atonement means to make up for. It could be read as ‘at one ment’. The idea that two sides who were separated are now ‘at one’ again.
The word reconciliation means to repair a broken relationship. Human beings could not repair the relationship themselves. It was up to God. The way this was done was through the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross.
How does Jesus’ death influence the life of a Christian?
- Some Christians have been prepared to follow Jess even to death. Martin Luther King knew that his life was in danger but kept challenging the racism around him as he knew it was the right thing to do. Jesus death was an inspiration here.
- The element of sacrifice is important. A willingness to give up something to help others. Examples could include giving up time to support charity work or challenging social injustice such as human rights issues. Christians should try to take the initiative in terms of repairing the world and not just leave it to someone else.
After Jesus was crucified, his body was taken and laid to rest in a tomb cut out of the rock. When the women returned on the Sunday to prepare Jesus’ body for burial they saw that the rock covering the tomb entrance had been moved. They saw a man dressed in white who told them that Jesus had risen from the dead. Over the next forty days Jesus appeared to his disciples. During this period Jesus tells his disciples to ‘Spread the Good News throughout the world’ meaning that they should continue his work and spread his teachings.
Jesus is ‘Taken up to heaven’. Some Christians take this story literally however many view it as a story to show the final chapter of Jesus’ work on Earth and final confirmation of him as God in human form.
Why is Jesus’ resurrection and ascension important for Christians?
- Viewed as the ultimate proof that Jesus was God in human form
- The resurrection shows that sin and death have been conquered and the way is now open once again for a relationship between God and mankind. A Christian symbol of the resurrection shows a lamb (representing Jesus’ sacrificial death) carrying a banner of victory (over death)