How well do your neighbours know you? Do they know your family? Do they know about your job? Your interests? Maybe you like the same TV shows or restaurants. Maybe you enjoy the same sports. Maybe you vote for the same political party. Or maybe not.
Jesus’ neighbours knew him. They knew his mother and his siblings. They knew his job. They knew his house. They saw him grow up. He was one of them. “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” They felt that they knew him so well that they were offended when he started presuming to be someone else, to be someone of importance. Did he think he was better than them (1)?
Jesus intentionally lived in such a way that his neighbors would know him, that he would be “one of them”. We call this Incarnation. From the beginning, Jesus has been God. He is the creator God without whom nothing was created. But his life was transformed from being in the form of God to being in the form of a human (2). He put aside all his rights and power as God of the universe, and came to live among men and women, neighbours and co-workers, religious and non-religious, those who were well-to-do and those who were needy (3).
Incarnation implies a physical movement from one place to another. Jesus moved from his place with God, the Father, to his place with us.
We learn about Jesus’ incarnation from the second chapter of Philippians (4). Incarnation implies a physical movement from one place to another. Jesus moved from his place with God, the Father, to his place with us. In addition, he took on the role of a servant. I would have thought he should take on the role of a king, or a military commander, or a governor, at least. But he chose the form of a servant. Most people in servant roles feel stuck, with no other career option. Jesus was happy to take it on.
One of the primary impulses in Jesus is his humility. He did not cling to his position, but he willingly made himself vulnerable, subject to the human race. He considered other people before he considered himself. He was not lost, however, to the whims of man. He had an objective, which describes another motivation: he sought to honour and obey the will of the Father, even knowing that it would take him to his death.
As we examine this chapter, we are advised to “have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” In this, we have a great advantage that Jesus won for us by his death and resurrection. “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this: that one died for all, therefore all died, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died and rose again on their behalf (5).” We have a transformed life—we carry in us the resurrected life of Jesus!
We can incarnate Jesus in the world around us with this confidence. We can take on the role of a servant; we can be humble and vulnerable; we can be obedient and intentional.
How well do your neighbours know you? A lot depends on how humble and vulnerable you are with them, how deliberate you are at considering their needs above your own, and how obedient you are in living out the life of Jesus.
(1) Mark 6:3 (ESV) (2) Philippians 2:6-7 (ESV) (3) John 1:1-3,14 (ESV) (4) Philippians 2:1-11 (5) 2 Corinthians 5:14-15