The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.—John 1:14
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity…—Hebrews 2:14
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.—Philippians 3:20,21
When God created people, He made beings who are both spiritual and physical. He created our souls, our inner selves, the spiritual part of us that is truly us, but He also gave us bodies to live in. After giving Adam and Eve bodies and souls, God declared His creation to be “very good.” Then sin entered the world, and everything got messed up, including our bodies. Eve was told there would be pain in childbirth. Adam was told he would live a life of painful toil, and have food to eat only “by the sweat of his brow.” Death entered the world, along with disease, hunger, and all sorts of other unpleasant physical realities. (I’m pretty sure there were no mosquitoes in Eden). Being a human, living life in a physical body, became a painful, uncomfortable experience.
We see this all the time in a hundred different ways. Most of the prayer requests people share with us are for health concerns. This past week I’ve spoken to two different people who are dealing with a recent cancer diagnosis, and with others who are facing their first Christmas without a loved one who has passed on. Pastor Rick couldn’t join us on Sunday because of debilitating back pain. My mom is slowly recovering from a hip replacement. Many families, including ours, couldn’t all be together on Thanksgiving because of sickness. Everywhere you look, you see the pain and frustration that comes from living in these weak, sinful, fallen bodies.
Of course, our bodies are a blessing as well as a curse. They allow us to hug those we love, to experience fresh air and good food. They’re great for sledding, and really handy for shoveling snow. Despite the brokenness in this world, the physical life God designed for us is still a really good life.
This is why, when Jesus comes again and makes everything right, we will enter into an eternal life that will be physical. It will be like the Garden of Eden, only better. Acts 3:21 says the time will come when God will “restore everything.” It won’t be a completely different kind of life; it will be a restored life. We will get back to what God originally intended, this time with His Holy Spirit living inside of us. In the above passage from Philippians, Paul says Jesus “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” In His resurrected body, Jesus could eat food and hug his friends. He was the same person, but free from death, sickness, and decay. It will be the same for us. At that point, we won’t have any complaints about living in a body. No more hip replacements, no more mosquito bites, no more funerals.
But here is the amazing part: before that glorious body, Jesus came and lived in a broken one. He was born to a human mother, who I’m sure experienced pain at his birth. He learned what it means to grow up, including, I assume, being an awkward adolescent. He worked with his hands and experienced fatigue. He lived at a time when people walked from place to place, and he slept on the ground in his frequent travels. He lived in an oppressed nation that didn’t have an abundance of comforts. He grieved the loss of loved ones. He shared in our humanity. He became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
And then the soldiers beat him on the head with a stick. They shredded his back with a whip. They pressed a crown of thorns into his skull. They forced him to carry his cross, and then they nailed him to it through his hands and feet. He hung there, bleeding and suffocating, while the crowds watched and mocked him. In those moments, Jesus, the eternal Son of God, experienced the absolute worst of what it feels like to live in a human body.
This means that when we say to Him, “Jesus, my body hurts,” He can say, “I know.” When we say, “Jesus, I miss my loved one,” He answers back, “I know.” When we say, “Jesus, life is hard, and sometimes I don’t know how much more I can take,” he tells us, “I know. I’ve been there, and I’m with you now.”
But it’s more than that. Jesus has not only experienced our physical suffering, He has redeemed it. After He suffered, he conquered sin and death and rose victorious from the grave. So now He can tell us, “I’ve been where you are, and someday you’ll be where I am.” Because He was willing for His flesh to be broken, we can be made whole. One day we will inhabit unbroken, glorified bodies. I believe on that day we will feel His arms around us, and hear His voice welcoming us home.
In the meantime, however healthy or unhealthy we may be feeling at the moment, the Christmas season is a great opportunity celebrate Christ’s willingness to join us in a broken body on this broken world. Everything is different because He came. I hope this season finds you warm, well-fed, happy, and surrounded by loved ones. And whether you are or not, I pray that Jesus is real to you, and that you experience His joy and peace as we await His return. Merry Christmas.