When the Word became flesh, God did not just visit earth; He became a part of it. The Greek word used for flesh is sarx, which sounds earthly. As a human being, Jesus needed to eat, drink and breathe. He was reliant on the earth for His survival. Furthermore, the cells that made up Jesus’ body came from the earth. Molecules in the human body are changed approximately every seven years. Some of the matter that helped to “create” Jesus’ body is still in the world, in some form, today. While Jesus’ body was resurrected, Jesus was not resurrected with all the cells that ever would have made up His body. Like all of us, He would have lost some of them throughout His life.
In becoming flesh, God showed the love He has for His creation. Here is not a God who creates the world and then loses interest or even one that watches from a distance. Instead, He enters Creation and becomes part of Creation in His love for Creation. He participates and becomes a part of the world He has created. Jesus’ suffering and death through crucifixion, as a sacrificial act, is then also seen as a revelation of God’s compassion and self-identification with the world.
As a fully divine, fully human person, Jesus brings Heaven to earth. One of the best illuminations of this is in the garden of Gethsemane when, as Jesus prays, angels minister to Him while great beads of sweat like blood fall to the earth. As the place where Heaven met earth, He was able to mediate between God and human beings (1 Timothy 2:5). Yet whilst Heaven and earth have never met in the same way as they did in the person of Jesus, this does not mean that they are otherwise separate. Indeed, it is the fully human, fully divine nature of Christ that brings Heaven and earth together in a new way that would not otherwise be possible.
In becoming flesh, the Word was able to transform, redeem, reconcile and renew all flesh. When the Bible speaks of the work Christ has done, it is not limited to humanity. Jesus gave His flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51) and all flesh shall see the salvation of God (Luke 3:6). Furthermore, in His body of flesh, all things were reconciled to the Father, things upon the earth and things in Heaven (Colossians 1:20-22). Christ will bring about the renewal of everything in the world, for He makes all things new (Revelation 21:5). This includes the whole of Creation which has been waiting to be set free (Romans 8:19-22).
It is interesting to note the use of flesh in the Flood Story. When God decided to destroy all flesh in the flood, this included not just humans, but everything that had the breath of life (Genesis 6:13, 17). Then, the covenant that God made to never again destroy all flesh (Genesis 9:8-17) was a covenant between Him and the earth (Genesis 9:13). We may presume, then, that what Christ does for humans by becoming flesh, He does for all flesh, which is everything that has the breath of life in it, and the earth itself. When Christ died for the world, this includes more than just humanity. It includes the whole world.
When we see Christ as the “Word became flesh” metaphor, we realize He is intimately tied to the earth. He permeates everything in Creation in all its different stages. He loved Creation so much that He became a part of it. As a fully human, fully divine being, Jesus became the place where Heaven met earth, showing a God that loves the world so much that He intervenes. In doing so, He was able to transform, redeem, reconcile and renew the whole universe.
In today’s Western world—where food comes in supermarkets, we live in air-conditioned houses and nature is something we use as wallpaper for our computers—we seem to become more disconnected from nature all the time. Furthermore, we are often unwilling to sacrifice our comfort or convenience for the good of the planet. If Christians are to really engage with the significance of “Word made flesh,” however, they will see that the Christ they profess to follow gets involved with the earth, reconnects to it, sacrifices for its good and works to transform it into something better. The question for Christians then becomes: What does this mean for how we live in the world today?
Liz Jakimow is completing a Bachelor of Theology in Australia. She writes about creation care at http://godgumnuts.blogspot.com and runs the Australian Christian Environmental Group on Facebook.