Lewis said, “If the Incarnation happened at all, it is the central chapter of history.”
Said another way, Jesus Christ is either a fraud or the greatest truth mankind must confront. There is no middle ground about this, no room for negotiation.
Islam teaches that Jesus was a noteworthy prophet. Historians record that Jesus was a historical figure. Universalists declare that all roads lead to heaven and the path following Jesus is one among many.
Moderation is likable. It’s tolerant, noninvasive, acceptable, understanding. It isn’t strident.
The deal is, when considering the Incarnation—God becoming man in Jesus Christ—we are not talking opinion or preference. We are considering a fact, something that is true or false. There’s no more room here for moderation than there is when discussing gravity. Either God became incarnate or he did not.
If the Incarnation is a hoax, then Jesus Christ is a fraud. He claimed to be God incarnate, and if this is false, then Jesus Christ should be denounced and we who bought the deception should obligate ourselves to speak the truth we’ve discovered.
By sacrificing His life, we who were dead to God could have new life.
But if He is God incarnate, then Jesus Christ is the central chapter of history. If true, it is foolhardy, shortsighted, dishonest, and personally perilous to moderate His implication in your life, the lives of those surrounding you, and in the societies comprising our collective humanity.
At its core, Christianity—the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ—is a statement of fact. It is a truth declared. Whatever else it may be, it is either true or it is not.
So how do you prove the Incarnation?
Let’s set the stage: The Incarnation is the story of God taking on humanity in the man, Jesus Christ, who lived historically, died a sacrificial death, and resurrected. And for what purpose? That by sacrificing His life, we who were dead to God could have new life, His life.
Here’s how Jesus described this: “I lay down my life that I may take it up again” (Jn. 10:17). “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it” (Mt. 16:25 et al). “I lay down my life that I may take it again” (Jn. 10:17). “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11). “This is my body which is given for you” (Lk. 22:19). “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (22:20).
After the two statements recorded above by Luke, Jesus did what He proclaimed throughout His incarnation: He laid down His life so we could live.
John considered what Jesus did and put it this way: “We know this, that He laid down His life for us” (1 Jn. 3:16).
And you are saying, “Yes, yes. I know what the Incarnation is. You said you could prove it to me.”
Look around you. The message of the Incarnation is demonstrated in nearly everything you can see. Life progresses toward death, but while dying, life is reproduced. We call it the cycle of life. It is true for a seed you bury in the ground. It is true for the tree that sheds it leaves each fall and blossoms new in the spring. It is true for parents who raise a child. It is true in the statement, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends (Jn. 15:13).
The only way to miss His Incarnation is to suppress the truth of it.
Every pagan culture, every religion, every human being conscious enough to have self-awareness recognizes that everything is utterly dependent on the cycle of life, i.e. descent and resurrection. The farmer depends on it every spring. The naturalist worships it in nature. Religions ancient and contemporary grapple with the cause. But in Christianity, the template is demonstrated and identified by name. It’s called the Incarnation.
Paul writes that the evidence of God’s existence and the Incarnation is so evident that the enemies of our faith must labor to suppress the truth (Rm. 1:18). Otherwise, the truth is so pervasive that plausible deniability requires outright denial. Paul observes that God is clearly evident all around us, so evident in fact, that the only way to miss His Incarnation is to suppress the truth of it.
All you have to do is examine nature (Rm. 1:18-20). And what is it that nature is continually doing? Descending and resurrecting. Giving to gain. Dying to live.
And what are we called to do? How are we commissioned to live?
We are to live as Christ lived. We lay our lives down. We sacrifice. We suffer. We reject independence and live dependent. Why? First, because this is how we find life. Second, because this is how we give life.
The remainder of 1 John 3:16 reads, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” In so doing, we demonstrate the Incarnation.
The Incarnate God, Jesus Christ, laid down His life so that He might take it up again (Jn. 10:17). He laid down His life in order to justify life for us (Rm. 5:18). Following His lead, we lay down our lives in order to live.
As the central piece of history, it only makes sense that everything that has life bears witness to the template laid out by Jesus Christ in His incarnation.