The Unexpected Incarnation

Last week, for the first week of Advent, I wrote about how the [first coing of the Christ was “long-expected”](”>first coming of the Christ was “long-expected”). But while the timing was perfect, the Incarnation was unexpected in several ways.

First, while the devout desperately longed for God to save them, only careful study of the Scriptures could have indicated that then was the time. Many times before, God had used other nations to conquer Israel’s oppressors or even distract their attention so that Israel could survive, but the known world was enjoying the Pax Romana under Caesar Augustus. (More on that motif next week.) In ancient times God had sent prophets to announce what he was about to do, but the prophet God had appointed to proclaim the coming of the Messiah was only six months old when he was born. And in general people always seem to be surprised when God acts.

Second, the kind of salvation God had in mind was anything but expected. The farthest extent of most people’s longings was “deliverance from the Romans”—that comment by Lewis about mud pies and a holiday by the sea is rather apt; God’s scantest plan is far grander than his people’s most sweeping dreams. Further—and crucially for the execution of the plan thirty years or so later—many people didn’t want anything more than to throw off the Romans, if that: the Sadducees, the tetrarchs, and the rest of the political and religious elite depended on the continuation of the status quo. Crowds of people followed Jesus because he fed and healed them, but the attempts to make him king by force showed that they wanted a political-military leader, at worst a figurehead, rather than a covenant-maker.

And third, there had been superficially-similar leaders before, and would be again, as Gamaliel noted in the fifth chapter of Acts. (Televangelists and a few kinds of politicians are the here-and-now equivalent.) Skeptics could easily call “this Jesus of Nazareth” as just another charismatic leader who would be forgotten in a generation, but his enduring legacy proves otherwise.


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