The Incarnation Is Really Unrealistic


The incarnation of Christ isn’t very realistic. Certain details in the Christmas story, for instance:

Angels appearing in dreams. Angels appearing in person.

A star hovering over one little house in one tiny village.

An infertile older woman getting pregnant.

A young virgin getting pregnant.

God becoming a baby.

Really? It’s all rather unbelievable. It’s not realistic. Things don’t happen like that in the real world.

When you consider that the incarnation isn’t just about the birth of Jesus but about his whole life, well, it’s just too much.

All the walking on water, feeding of five thousand, giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, the calming of storms, casting out of demons, etc.

And of course the big one—dying and three days later rising from the dead.

It’s all a little much for a modern person, don’t you think?

I mean, be realistic.

But then, as people committed to the truth of God’s word, we’re reminded that Jesus himself said, “With humans this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

For people who don’t believe in God that statement is a non-starter, but for us theists it makes perfect sense. A virgin birth is nothing for the God who made a universe that is billions of years old and billions of light-years deep and amazingly complex and intricate.

Walking on water? A walk in the park.

And a God who creates life can certainly do it again in a once-alive person.

With God all things are possible. Nothing is unrealistic.

That’s what Jesus said.

Of course, when Jesus said it he was talking about how difficult it is for rich people to enter the kingdom of God. To the disciples that was completely unrealistic. If wealthy people can barely get in, what chance does anybody else have?

When you think about it, Jesus said a lot of unrealistic things. Turn the other cheek. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute—or terrorize—you. Drop your weapons. Take up your cross. Don’t return evil with evil. Sell everything and give it to the poor. Forgive even if the same person hurts you seventy-seven times.

Seventy-seven times? C’mon, that’s not realistic at all!

It’s strange: many of the same people who insist that the miracles of Jesus are not at all unrealistic are also the most likely to insist that his teachings of radical forgiveness, enemy-love, and utter rejection of violence are in fact very unrealistic.

That they just won’t work in the real world.

Jesus can’t really expect us not to retaliate against evil. It’s unrealistic.

Well, yes he can. And yes it is.

Our faithfulness and obedience are not conditioned by how realistic the demands of following him are. We don’t get to decide to only be faithful to his teachings that are possible for us to obey while getting a pass on the ones that seem not only unrealistic but pretty much impossible.

They’re all unrealistic. They’re all impossible.

For us.

“With humans this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

That’s why being faithful requires faith.

The job of Christians is not to change the world or protect the world or save the world.

That’s God’s job.

Our job is to be light. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Our job is to be witnesses to the nature of God revealed in Jesus, the God who loves unconditionally and forgives extravagantly, who welcomes all and hates none, who is full of grace and peace, and who is faithful all the way to death, even death on a cross.

Image by © Can Stock Photo Inc. / zatletic

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