Incarnation & Crucifixion
March 25, 2016
St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
This may seem like a strange text to read and meditate on tonight. After all, today is Good Friday. The chancel is set up for the Tenebrae service. We just finished singing Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted, and in a few short moments we will hear again of our Lord’s agony on the cross. Why would we read of Gabriel and Mary on such a day as this? Because today is not only Good Friday, it is also the Feast of the Annunciation, observed every year on March 25, 9 months before December 25, the day we celebrate the birth of Christ. Actually, there is good reason to believe that this is the exact reason we celebrate Christmas when we do. Of course, no one actually knows what day of the year Jesus was really born. But there was a belief among certain early Christians that Jesus was conceived and crucified on the same date, 33 years apart. Because they could look backward through recorded history to determine the date of Passover in the year Jesus was crucified, they simply added 9 months for the time Jesus spent in Mary’s womb and determined Christmas should be celebrated on December 25.
Now on the one hand, it is helpful to know that the Christians who were making this claim for December 25 based on the date of a March 25 Passover were doing so almost 100 years before the Romans instituted the feast of Sol Invictus, the pagan festival that Time Magazine and the History Channel and pretty much everyone else out there will tell you that Christians stole and renamed Christmas. But apart from demonstrating that Christians didn’t steal the date for Christmas from a pagan holiday, there probably isn’t much practical value in knowing that Jesus likely died on March 25. Yet there is incredible value in meditating on the connection between the incarnation of Jesus and his crucifixion. There is much we can learn from seeing the relationship between the Annunciation and Good Friday.
Think to what Jesus says from the cross: “I thirst.” With two simple English words, only a single word, in Greek, our Lord lays to rest any doubt as to what is happening on that piece of wood. Yes, he is thirsty, but more importantly, he is true man, for spirits do not thirst. Apparitions do not get cottonmouth. Ghosts do not suffer from dehydration. But a man does, a man who was at one time an embryo and fetus, a man who was born an infant and raised a boy, a man who has just been scourged and beaten, a man who have carried their cross outside the city to the place of execution. Our Lord thirsts because he is dying. The body that was given life when the Angel Gabriel spoke to Mary is now slowly losing that life and is crying out for sustenance. His parched lips desire relief from their pain. Jesus is truly man, truly suffering, truly dying.
It’s difficult to overstate the significance of our Lord’s incarnation, the fact that he came into his creation as a creature. The importance of the incarnation must be considered two ways. One, our Lord became a human to die for the sin of humanity. Jesus is your substitute up on that cross. In order to stand in for you, he had to become like you in every way – except without sin. He had to be a human to redeem humans. But sometimes we are guilty of underestimating another aspect of our Lord’s incarnation, namely that he became a part of this creation in order to die for this creation. For just as the sin of Adam has lasting consequences for all of creation, not just for people, so also the death of Jesus is for all creation.
It doesn’t take much reflection to realize that the world around us is marred by sin. In this year already there have been several events classified as natural disasters, from an avalanche in India, a swarm of locusts in Argentina, and an outbreak of 59 tornados over a day and a half in Louisiana, not to mention all the earthquakes that are simply expected in certain regions. But this isn’t groundbreaking news. Natural disasters surround us our entire lives. Neither should their presence surprise us, for the Scriptures are not silent when it comes to the presence of such disasters in creation. When our Lord created this earth, he looked out and saw that it was good. Our Lord had created an earth in perfect harmony. Adam and Eve lived off the fruits of the Garden in which the Lord had so lovingly placed them. All their needs were met. Life was truly paradise.
But sin ruined that. Adam and Eve rejected their place in creation, and their disobedience brought sin into the world. Notice, however, that their disobedience brought sin into the entire creation, not just to mankind. It’s not as if Adam and Eve alone were changed by the presence of sin in the world while the rest of creation went right on as if nothing had happened. No, after the first sin, when the Lord was doling out judgments, he told the serpent that it was cursed above all livestock and he told Eve that she would experience pain in child bearing. But listen to his words to Adam:
Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
The ground itself is cursed because of Adam’s sin. All mankind fell in Adam’s fall, we took the rest of creation with us. Paul says the same in Romans 8:
“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”
Adam’s sin has subjected all of our Lord’s good creation to the debilitating effects of the fall. Our sin has tainted our Lord’s perfect creation. Jesus came into creation to fee us from our sin, yes, but he also came to free the creation itself from the terrible burden we have placed on it.
The Jesus hanging on the cross is true man and true God, part of this creation while at the same time upholding it. The importance of Jesus’ humanity extends beyond the redemption of the human race. “The Son of God became a human creature and not some other kind of creature. As one particular human creature brought about the ruin of creation, so now one particular human creature brings about the restoration and renewal of creation. God began his rescue of creation at the point where its ruin had taken place, with his human creatures.”
The terrible truth of our sin is that it ruined more than just humanity, it ruined all of God’s perfect creation. God did not create this earth to destroy its inhabitants with volcanic eruptions and landslides. Those tragedies are the result of our sin, the result of our corruption. Our holy Lord demands justice for that corruption. There are few things that fill a parent with dread quite like walking through a nice store with small children. You break it, you buy it. Well, the sin of humanity broke God’s creation, and now something must pay the price. And in steps our Lord. In the announcement of Gabriel we hear that our Lord has become part of his own creation. Humanity had ruined his creation, so our Lord became human. “On Good Friday, God poured out his anger against those who ruined the harmony of his creation,” his anger against Adam and Eve, his anger against you and me, his against all people.
On Good Friday, our Lord poured out his anger, dumping that cup of wrath all over the cross. “The Son of God who had become a human creature embodied the entire human race and died on our behalf.” Jesus stepped in as the representative of all humanity. Jesus took the blame for the current state of creation, and Jesus suffered the punishment for it. God poured out his anger onto the head of his Son, and “the rest of creation felt that anger. In the presence of God’s judgment, the created order comes unraveled. The sky darkened and the earth shuddered.” Think about what accompanied the death of Jesus. Matthew tells us that the earth shook and rocks were split and tombs were opened so that the bodies of many who had died in the faith were raised, and they returned to Jerusalem and appeared to many. The earth itself reacted to the death of Jesus, for the death of Jesus freed the earth itself from its bondage to sin.
All creation fell in Adam’s fall, but all creation is restored in Jesus’ death on the cross. Just as we still live in bodies that suffer under the effects of sin, so also the creation around us still suffers the effects of sin. There are still floods. There are still earthquakes. There are still hurricanes and tsunamis. But thanks to Jesus, there won’t be in eternity. That’s the promise that we cling to; that’s the hope that makes this Friday Good. The new creation that awaits us will be free from sin and its corruption. We will be free from sin, all because our Lord became part of this creation and died to redeem it. It started with a message from Gabriel to that simple young lady in Galilee. Come, let us consider once again all that child did for us when he became a man.
 Genesis 3:17-18
 Romans 8:19-22
 Together With All Creatures: Caring for God’s Living Earth. A Report of the CTCR, p. 45
 Ibid, p. 45
 Ibid, p. 45
 Ibid, p. 45
 Matthew 27:51-53