Why did Jesus need a body? It’s such a foundational question but it’s also one we typically don’t dwell on except maybe around Christmas. In 1995, John Piper expanded on this question at the end of a sermon on Ephesians 4:32–5:2. Here’s what he said:
Now turn your attention for just one last minute or two away from the life to the sacrifice, the sacrifice, the costliness of this life being laid down. You know, one of the differences between the 19-year-old boy and Jesus is that, in order for Jesus to suffer and die, he had to plan it way ahead of time because, as the logos [word] who existed before creation, he couldn’t die — immortal. He didn’t have any body. He could not die. And yet he wanted to die for you. So he planned the whole thing by clothing himself with a body so that he could get hungry and get weary and get sore feet.
The incarnation is the preparation of nerve endings for the nails. That is what the incarnation is. The incarnation is the preparation of a brow for thorns to press through. He needed to have a broad back so that there was a place for the whip. He needed to have feet so that there was a place for spikes. He needed to have a side so that there was a place for the sword to go in. He needed cheeks, fleshy cheeks, so that Judas would have a place to kiss and there would be a place for the spit to run down that the soldiers put on him. He needed a brain and a spinal column with no vinegar and no gall so that the exquisiteness of the pain could be fully felt.
I just plead with you. When you are reading the Bible and you read texts like he loved you and gave himself for you (Galatians 2:20), you wouldn’t go too fast over it. Linger, linger, linger. And plead with him that your eyes would be opened.
Let me close with a question: Can you, will you now take this personally for yourself? You know what Satan wants to do right now? He has not been able to stop me this morning from describing to you the love of Christ in his death. What he could do right now, maybe, is in a subtle, even spiritual, way get into your brain and cause you to put that picture that I have just tried to paint for you of the love of Christ for you on your coffee table like a big glossy book of canyons. Oh, canyons, U.S. canyons. And you flip through the book and: Oh, aren’t those wonderful canyons? And then you walk away to the kitchen and you murmur and you act unlovingly and your voice is unkind. Here we are standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon this morning. We have seen some of it. We need wings now. We need wings. We don’t want photographs. We don’t want to say: The love of Christ is great. There it is. There it is. It is on the screen. And we say: Wow. We do a worship thing on it. And we do teaching things on it. And it is still on the screen. It is in the Book.
If that is what Satan has got to settle for, admiring Jesus on a distance and having no roots, no involvement, no hang gliding in and through the Grand Canyon, he would be satisfied. So I am going to close with a testimony from the apostle Paul and just pray with you as we close that it would become true for you. It is Galatians 2:20.
I remember back in 1966 when I got mononucleosis and was in the hospital for three weeks, and chaplain Welch came in and, as he was leaving the first time, he turned and he looked over his shoulder and he said: John, what is your favorite Bible verse? And I hadn’t thought about what my favorite Bible verse was. But out of my mouth came Galatians 2:20:
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who now lives in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh” — nitty-gritty, daily life that everybody has to live — “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me.” Would you take that please? Take that personal pronoun. Don’t say “you.” Don’t say “us.” Those are true. Would you say “me”? “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” That is the love that I want you to send your roots down into. It will make a great difference in our church, in your life, in your family. Lord, do that, I pray. And all the people said: Amen.