Glory Came to Live Among Us
Late one evening, a small voice penetrated the stillness of the night. It came from the bedroom across the hall. “Mommy, I’m scared!” the little girl cried out.
From the grogginess of sleep, the mother called back, “Don’t be afraid, Honey. Mommy is right across the hall from you.”
After a brief pause, the little voice came back, “I’m still scared.”
“You don’t need to be afraid,” the mother replied. “God is with you.”
This time the pause was longer, but when she answered, there was still fear in the little girl’s voice. “I don’t care about God, Mommy. I want someone with skin on.”
God heard a similar cry from a scared and lonely planet, so God came into our world in Jesus Christ, as God-with-skin-on.
John 1:14 expresses it this way: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory….”
The word used here to describe Jesus as living among us, eska’nosen, derives from the word ska’nos which means “tent.” Literally, John is telling us that Jesus set up his tent among us for a while.
This points our attention back to the “Tent of Meeting” in Exodus. When the Jewish people fled Egypt and wandered through the desert, they were anxious and afraid, so God called for a tent to be set up among them. The tent represented God’s home with the Israelites. During all their years of traveling through the desert, the tent was the visible evidence of God’s presence with them.
Still, there was a cry from our world for a God-with-skin-on, so God came in Jesus on Christmas day.
In doing so, God changed forever the dynamic between people and God. By becoming one of us, God understands us. By becoming one of us, we understand God.
God understands us: In the concluding chapter of his book The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey remarks, “The author of Hebrews reports that Jesus became a ‘sympathetic’ advocate for us. There is only one way to learn sympathy, as signified by the Greek roots of the word, syn pathos, ‘to feel or suffer with.’ Because of the Incarnation, God hears our prayers in a new way, having lived here and having prayed as a weak and vulnerable human being.”
Then Yancey adds, “As a doctor who works in hospice told me, ‘When my patients pray, they are talking to someone who has actually died—something that’s not true of any other adviser, counselor, or death expert.’” (p. 271)
We understand God: John tells us, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory….” Exodus tells us that “glory” filled the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 40:34) because God was there. John tells us that Jesus revealed the “glory” of God because in Jesus, God set up his tent among us.
In Hebrew, the word for glory was kabod, which comes from the word kabed, which means “to be heavy.” Glory had to do with how heavy something was. If you were mining and found a supply of gold nuggets, you would want to know their value. The way you would do that would be to weigh them. Glory had to do with the value of something, which was determined by their weight. But if you dug up a nugget that was a mix of gold and other minerals, you could not just weigh the entire nugget to determine its value. You would have to melt it down to separate the gold from other minerals. Kabod came to be understood as having to do with melting away the extra stuff to get down to the essential nature of the nugget. How much of the nugget is truly gold? What is its real value?
John tells us that in Jesus we see the essential nature of God. In Jesus we see what remains when all the extra stuff—the trappings of religion, culture, and tradition—is melted away.
What is it that we see in Jesus when all the trappings are melted away?
What stands out to me is love. In Jesus we see the purity of God’s love. We see one who was willing to learn sympathy by becoming one of us and by suffering with us. We see one whose love is unconditional, so he died for our sins. We see one whose love is invincible, so he rose from the dead for us. Jesus’ love is the glory of God—the essential nature of who God is.