The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day, they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard (Psalm 19:1-2 NLT).
In comparison to us, our world, the planet earth, seems huge. The distance around the earth is about 24,900 miles. There are 7 billion people crammed onto our planet. No wonder we sometimes feel small, powerless, and inconsequential. Our world seems so big until...
We compare our world to the sun, which is 93 million miles away. And we complain about jet lag from flying halfway around the world. What are 12 time zones compared to millions upon millions of miles? In addition, the sun is more than 109 times as large as the earth! Yes, the heavens and what we know of them are amazing, and we seem in size and importance the more we know about them.
Consider Saturn, a planet that is still part of our own solar system. We share the same sun. We can see each other in our orbits around the sun. Yet Saturn is 1 billion miles away! Now how do we imagine that? Or can we imagine it? But we have only just begun to get a grasp of the universe's vast expanse.
Alpha Centauri, the nearest star to us outside our solar system, is 25 trillion miles away. Or if talking about trillions of miles gets to you, use a different measurement. It is 4.2 light years away! Huh and double HUH? How do we understand a light year? Well, it means we travel at the speed of light — 186,000 miles per second — for a whole year! Now do that for four years and then another ten weeks or so, and you're getting close to arriving at Alpha Centauri!
But we are still just jaunting about our "little neighborhood" in space: our galaxy called the Milky Way. We would need to travel about 100,000 light years to be able to see all the Milky Way in our rear view mirror because it is about 110,000 light years in width! I've been told that our solar system, compared to our galaxy, is about the size of a quarter compared to the whole continent of North America. There are approximately 200 Billion stars in our galaxy and recent estimates suggest that there are approximately 200 billion or so more galaxies in the known universe!
Now we could keep going, but you get the point. We ain't such big stuff in the enormity of the universe. And the God who made this universe — who provided the matter and energy and principles by which it came to exist and continues to operate — is incomprehensibly incredible. Yes, this is a faith statement. (But to assume that the incredible array of beauty and the vast expanse of our universe came into existence out of nothing and became organized and dazzling in its complexity and predictability is also a faith statement.) And in faith, we use a couple of terms to describe this God of creation: holy and glorious.
The Holy Spirit says it this way:
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible (Hebrews 11:3 NIV).
Imagine how vast, how powerful, how beyond us this God is!
And God himself even challenges us to see this holiness, this glory, this greatness and majesty!
To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal? asks the Holy One. Look into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing (Isaiah 40:25-26 NLT).
So what makes our tiny blue planet significant when it is so small compared to the incredible vastness and complexity of our universe?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it....
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-5; John 1:14 NIV).
We are special because we are the visited planet!
So, what makes us significant?
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known (John 1:18 NIV).
The incredible, holy, and glorious God has chosen to reveal himself to us in human form in Jesus of Nazareth. God, infinitely great, beyond description & comprehension, chose to limit himself for us, in order to reveal himself to us! And what is left for us? Praise... appreciation... thanks... wonder! God is great, awesome, worthy of praise, glorious, holy, majestic... yet here is the ultimate of all truths and the wonder of all wonders: The holy "I AM" God revealed his glory in the cross.
So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, you will know that I AM..." (John 8:28 NIV).
"... But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: 'He who shared my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'
"I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I AM..." (John 13:18-19 NIV)
This is a collision of glory and grace... of holiness and humiliation... of power and persecution.
Such a thing makes no sense. God doing this doesn't just seem impossible; it is inconceivable. Why would anyone so great and powerful allow one's incomparable glory to be subjected to such humiliation, degradation, and debasement?
Yet, Jesus brings us to this shattering realization: the great revelation of Jesus as "I AM" challenges us to accept that God did all of this in Jesus to demonstrate his great love... to redeem us from our messes... to atone for our sins... to bring us home to himself to share in his glory.
This is bottom line faith — the basic truth we must believe. Jesus is God come to us in human flesh: Jesus is Immanuel, God with us and among us and like us to be for us. And as incomprehensible as that seems, that is Jesus' and the early churches' claim. What's more, those who don't share this faith are not considered a part of Jesus' followers — don't even accept them in the house John warned (2 John 1:8-11 NIV).
Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist (2 John 7 NIV).
This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist that you heard is coming and even now is already in the world (1 John 4:2-3 NIV).
Human worshipers have always been tempted to keep the holy and glorious God protected from the messiness, grime, and brokenness that are part of the vile realities of our world. God is too holy to get in the muck and grime and of sin, such worshipers imagine. But, one of the most central confessions of the Christian faith is that God came in human flesh and lived among us in Jesus. God purposely chose in Jesus to incarnate himself in our messy, sinful, broken, grimy, vile world!
But how do we understand this? How do we grasp Jesus as the great "I AM" — God with us, the Savior of glorious holiness who also endures unspeakable human humiliation?
One thing changes everything: this God loves us!
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:9-10 NIV).
This leaves each of us with at least three realities the Holy Spirit wants us to wrestle with and live by:
Jesus, God come in human flesh is a truth to believe.
God loves me this much — more than I can dare ask or imagine. His love for me helps nurture my faith to accept the incomprehensible. More bewildering than the vastness of our universe is the great love the Father has for me, his child.
Jesus, God come in human flesh, is an example of love I am to share with others.
The love God has shared with me must be passed on in the way that I live my life with others. If the holy and glorious God who spoke our universe into existence loves me, he also loves others like me — as small and inconsequential as we all seem in the vastness of the universe, yet so problematic in our relationships with each other, we all matter to God.
Jesus, God come in human flesh is a message to demonstrate & proclaim to those who do not really know him.
While many will not believe, some will look into the vast expanse of what they can see in the night sky, be humbled knowing they are only looking at a pinprick view of a vastness beyond their imagining, and feel the pull of the Creator's universe to know him as the great "I AM" — God of the universe and Jesus of the Cross. For them to know more than the stars and the wonders of the universe's great expanse, I need to demonstrate and share the grace of Jesus.