Re-post: originally written 24 Dec 2009 at deTheos.com.
Wonder what Jesus looks like?
We don’t know. One day we shall see Him as He is, and become like Him (1 John 3:2). (Doubt He looks like the blue-eyed, blond-haired version sold here in the States as “Jesus junk,” that is, as trinkets.) Yet, we do have some clues as to what He is like. His character shines through brighter than His physical appearance. He’s full of compassion (Matthew 9:36: σπλαγχνίζομαι = moved with compassion), which is much deeper than mere emotion. More broadly, He’s full of grace and truth. He is the living embodiment of Grace, and Truth became a Person. Grace is meant to be experienced, truth intended to be known in the same way. We are to “receive” them as we receive Him. God’s grace never fails, and as wholly true He is completely faithful. (He’s not like us.)
Yet, He became like us. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is in the Gospel of John, first chapter, verses 14 & 16. It reads:
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…. And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
In His incarnation, Jesus stepped down into our world, showing us the worth of God in real-time. Someone has said the Incarnation is “deity for dummies.” God made Himself obvious and visible. Jesus was overflowing with the two essential qualities of perfect humanity: grace and truth. Those twin perfections remind us of God’s essential character: “steadfast love [Heb. hesed] and faithfulness [Heb. ’emet]” as revealed about 1,500 years prior in Exodus 34:6 (cf. Exodus 33:18–19). Moses asked to see God in all His glory. Yet the great patriarch was only able to see the back side of God’s presence passing by. Here in Jesus we see God making Himself known as a person. To be known, experienced, treasured and loved. If God is a theory or His Son simply a business transaction to get us to Heaven, we we’ll miss everything in between. This relationship of love is founded on endless grace and rock-solid truth. God intends Jesus to be sufficient for our failures and sweeter than our failures. He is Grace & Truth in action, making life worth enduring until the end. The Triune God enjoys a fullness that spilled over into this world.
A few years back pastor John Piper wrote about these Scriptures and the Incarnation in a short article on these verses (read the entire thing here). Here are some highlights:
- …the one from whose fullness I am being drenched with grace is the Word that was with God and was God (John 1:1-2), so that his fullness is the fullness of God—a divine fullness, an infinite fullness;
- …this Word became flesh and so was one of us and was pursuing us with his fullness—it is an accessible fullness;
- …when this Word appeared in human form, his glory was seen—his is a glorious fullness;
- …this Word was “the only Son from the Father” so that the divine fullness was being mediated to me not just from God, but through God—God did not send an angel but his only Son to deliver his fullness;
- …the fullness of the Son is a fullness of grace—I will not drown in this fullness but beblessed in every way by this fullness;
- …this fullness is not only a fullness of grace but of truth—I am not being graced with truth-ignoring flattery; this grace is rooted in rock-solid reality.
As I savor this illumination of Christ’s fullness, I hear Paul say, “In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9). I hear him say, “In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:19). And I hear him say, “In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
Can we see how deeply that God’s glory resides in Jesus? He intends us to seek Him in that one place alone: in Christ. Piper continues:
Paul prays that we would experience Christ’s fullness. Not just know about it, but be filled with it. Here is the way I hear him praying for me:
That I “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19).
The “fullness of God” is experienced, he says, as we are given the “strength to comprehend” the love of Christ in its height and depth and length and breadth—that is, in its fullness. This is remarkable: The fullness of God is the spiritual apprehension (experience) of the fullness of the love of Christ. This love is the grace and truth that fills the Son of God and pours out on us.
Experiencing the fullness this Christmas. Pray you are as well.