Who was God in the skin? In our study of John 1:1-18, we learned in the previous post that John writes in verse 14 that God, who John calls The Word, took on human skin. But John hasn’t told us yet who The Word is, so let me introduce another word. God in the skin is what theologians call The Incarnation.
Incarnation sounds like a flower, the carnation. Or Carnation Instant Breakfast. (Is that even still a thing?) But The Incarnation is neither of those. The Incarnation is a word derived from the Latin words, en carne which means “in the flesh.” You might be familiar with the word “carnivore.” That’s a word that means “meat eater” or “flesh eater.” Same root word.
When God who is the Word, John writes, takes on flesh, that is God in human skin. Again, up to this point in verse 14, John has not yet named specifically who the Word is. But he soon will.
Before we get to the big reveal, let’s review what we have learned about the Word so far in this week’s posts (here, here and here). 1. The Word is God, 2. The Word was with God in the beginning, creating all things. 3. The Word is God speaking to and interacting with all people in a new way. 4. The Word is the author of life and light.
Now in verse 14 he says “The Word became flesh.” What John doesn’t tell us is the story about how The Word was born by a human mother, through a physical birth, as a baby into a human family. We know that story from the other Gospel writers Matthew and Luke. John’s purpose is to point out something important about the Word. In verse one he says “The Word was God,” and in verse 14 he says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” So from verse 1 to verse 14 we have the concept of the Word as both 100% human and 100% God.
As we continue following John’s introduction of the Word chapter 1, look again at verses 14-18. He says that the Word came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John emphasizes this point in verse 17, specifically for his Jewish audience. The law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Now we know the identity of the Word! This is big reveal! This is the first time John mentions the name, Jesus. Jesus is just the Hebrew name, Yeshua, which is identical to our English name Joshua. But traditionally, we translate it as Jesus. What is even more important than his, John says, is that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the savior of the world, not because Jesus followed the Law of Moses, but because he brings grace and truth.
There’s that phrase again. The Word, Jesus, is full of grace and truth. The image John gives us is of a bottomless pit that is filled to the brim. In other words, Jesus’ grace and truth are so abundant, there is no end to them. And yet, like we saw above in verse 14, John doesn’t explain the depths of what that means. He simply introduces the larger concept of grace and truth, which are found infinitely in Jesus. We’ll talk more about Jesus’ as the source of grace and truth in the weeks and months to come as John returns to them.
For now, notice how John concludes in verse 18. God is invisible, but God the One and Only (another way that John refers to Jesus) has made God known. Jesus makes God visible to us. When we read the stories of Jesus in the Gospels, we get to see what God is like. The invisible God become visible in the life of Jesus. Amazing!
The significance of this is that God so desires relationship with all humanity that he made a way for us to easily see his heart and love for us. But it gets more amazing still. When Jesus leaves the disciples, he tells that he wants them to incarnate himself to the rest of the world. Just as Jesus is God in the skin to us, disciples of Jesus are to be Jesus in the skin to the rest of the world. What does that mean? Check back to the next post, as we’ll talk about it.