Why Did Jesus Take on Flesh?

At the center of this and every Christian season is the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  This mysterious bundle of joy is none other than the eternal Son of God who took on flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  That’s the very thing we celebrate here at Christmas—the enfleshing of the Son of God, the incarnation.  He was sent on a mission from the Father to save sinners, and one of the absolutely necessary things Jesus had to do to complete His mission was take on a flesh and blood body just like we have.  But, why was that so crucial?  Why did Jesus take on flesh?  The Bible gives us at least ten reasons.

1.  To become like us in every way
Hebrews 2:16-17 tells us, For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. 17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

It was the Cappadocian Father Gregory of Nazianzus who famously said, “That which was not assumed is not healed.”  Therefore, in order to sacrifice Himself for us and redeem every aspect of humanity, Jesus had be made like us in every way, which is impossible without taking on flesh.

2.  To become sympathetic to us
Hebrews 4:14-16 declares, Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 2:18 also tells us, For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.

By becoming like us and living on this earth for 33 years, Jesus gained firsthand knowledge of our situation.  He became intimate with our temptations, joys, weaknesses, and strengths, of course, all the while never sinning.  Because of this experience on earth in the flesh, Jesus overflows with compassion and understanding.  He’s perfectly sympathetic to us.

3.  To become our brother
Hebrews 2:11-15 relates the following to us, For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying, “I WILL PROCLAIM YOUR NAME TO MY BRETHREN, IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATION I WILL SING YOUR PRAISE.” 13 And again, “I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN HIM.” And again, “BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME.” 14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

We also read in Romans 8:29, For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.

What a glorious thought!  Jesus Christ is our brother, which is made possible only by His incarnation.

4.  To be our obedient substitute
Hebrews 5:7-10 teaches us, In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. 8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, 10 being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Only perfection gets one into Heaven, and we fall miserable short of that.  But, praise be to God, Jesus Christ obeyed for us.  He obeyed in our stead, as our substitute, in the flesh.  Therefore, we have the hope of Heaven through His perfect goodness.

5.  To be an example for us
Ephesians 5:1-2 states, Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

1 John 2:6 further instructs, the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

It’s good to not simply have somebody demand something, but to actually show what is demanded.  That’s why we should be so thankful that Jesus in the flesh became our example to us.  Because Jesus took on a body, we have a living, breathing example for how we are supposed to live in order to please God.

6.  To be made a perfect savior
Hebrews 2:10 declares, For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.

Jesus Christ was always perfect, but His perfection was demonstrated in the flesh.  From the day He was born until the day He died only to rise again, Jesus never ceased to honor the Father.  Therefore, we can have absolute confidence of His perfection that makes Him the perfect Savior.

7.  To be a substitutionary sacrifice
In John 1:29, John the Baptist exclaimed about Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  He was pointing to the sacrificial death that Jesus would die to propitiate God’s wrath toward sinners.  But, this sacrifice is impossible with a body.  A ghost or a spirit cannot be sacrificed.  In order to be sacrificed, Jesus needed a body, and it’s for this reason we read in Hebrews 10:5, Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME.

8.  To taste death for everyone
Hebrews 2:9 speaks to this truth, But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

Immortal beings by definition cannot die.  Therefore, the immortal one took on mortality when the Son of God took on flesh so that He could taste death for mankind.  Praise Jesus who died so that all who believe on Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.

9.  To become the only mediator
1 Timothy 2:5 says, For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

Holy God and sinful man need a go-between, and the perfect one is found in no person other than the God-man Jesus, being 100% God and 100% man.  Through His substitutionary life and death, which was confirmed through His resurrection, Jesus is now the bridge connecting God and man once again.

10.  To be the promise of our resurrection
1 Corinthians 15:20 tells us, But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.

“First fruits” is a farming term that represents a promissory down payment.  Jesus’ resurrection is the promise that we who are His will be resurrected to life as well.  Of course, a spirit cannot actually be resurrected.  Therefore, Jesus taking on flesh is part and parcel to the doctrine of His resurrection.  Without flesh, He could have never died, and if He never died,  He could have never been resurrected, and if Jesus was never resurrected, we are still dead in our trespasses and sins (1 Corinthians 15:17).  However, since Jesus did take on flesh and since Jesus died and since Jesus was resurrected, we who believe in Him can be forgiven forever and spend that forever with our Father in Heaven.  Praise God that Jesus took on flesh!

~Ben Simpson  :  @JBenSimpson  :  JBenSimpson.com  :  West Main Baptist Church

Comments

  1. says

    Good article, Brother Ben! I’d like to add that human flesh is a package deal, as a human spirit comes with it. And while Jesus’ human spirit was not in the fallen condition that ours was born in, His body was in exactly the fallen condition that ours was born in.

    • Christiane says

      Hi KEN,

      not sure Athanasius would have agreed with you on your comment, this:
      “His body was in exactly the fallen condition that ours was born in”

      take a look at Athanasius’ reasoning:
      “At one and the same time—this is the wonder— as Man He was living a human life, and as Word He was sustaining the life of the universe, and as Son He was in constant union with the Father. Not even His birth from a virgin, therefore, changed Him in any way, nor was He defiled by being in the body. Rather, He sanctified the body by being in it. For His being in everything does not mean that He shares the nature of everything, only that He gives all things their being and sustains them in it. Just as the sun is not defiled by the contact of its rays with earthly objects, but rather enlightens and purifies them, so He Who made the sun is not defiled by being made known in a body, but rather the body is cleansed and quickened by His indwelling, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.”

      (Athanasius, 296-373 A.D.)
      Doctor of the Church
      and, in tradition: ‘Father of Orthodoxy’

      Reference:
      http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/history/ath-inc.htm#ch_2

      • says

        Christiane,

        There is nothing morally defiling about the physical body. Morality is spiritual, not material. If Athanasius failed to see that, then he was wrong. His quote that you offered, though, is not an affirmation of the defiling power of the human body but a denial that such a body could defile the Son of God by being incarnated.

        • Christiane says

          So you think Athanasius wrong ?

          Can you expand on your doctrine concerning the two separated parts of Christ’s HUMAN nature, one physical and one spiritual ?

          I am familiar with the orthodox teachings only. I have not seen your doctrine in them.

          • says

            Christiane,

            His human spirit and body were separated only when He died (and were reunited in resurrection). But they were and are distinct in Him just as in us. The orthodox teaching that Jesus had “a rational soul” is the part that refers to His human spirit, as they tended to reserve the word spirit for the Holy Spirit, and such ideas were understood in a dichotomist way. A human being was seen as of two parts, body and soul/spirit, and the human nature that Jesus assumed was complete in both.

  2. says

    I’m going to throw this out there for the wolves to devour…flesh in Hebrew is phonetically’ basar’ and good news is ‘besorah’. Consider all the intentional puns imbeded naturally in Hebrew. Consider all the passages which use these words. Do a comparison and see what allusions you find. Then consider that bones’ etsam’ and stick/tree ‘etz’ are related regarding a structure for the flesh. First ones to my mind are ‘bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh…two become one”echad’. Think next of dry bones putting on flesh and told to live…and two sticks Ephraim and Judah and their companions becoming one ‘echad’ in His hand…many more. Delve in…amazing!

  3. says

    I noticed you used all New Testament to prove why he had to come as flesh. I submit if all he did can’t be found in the Old he is not who he claims. We are sorely lacking in knowing how to find Him the there. He is there. That is why John directs us to look ‘in the beginning’ and several times in Revelation to know Jesus is the aleph tav found there. Moses marked it for us. John points there. Consider.

  4. Jim G. says

    Good article, Ben. I’d like to add #11:

    11. “God became man in order that man might become God.” – Athanasius of Alexandria, by way of Irenaeus and 2 Peter 1:4. :0)

    I didn’t expound because it might be a good conversation starter.

    Jim G.