C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, reflects on Jesus’s incarnation with this:

“Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys could come to life? Well suppose you could really have brought them to life. Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tine soldier did not like it. He is not interested in flesh: all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt. He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help it.

What you would have done about that tin soldier I do not know. But what God did about us was this. The Second Person in God, the Son, became human Himself: was born into the world as an actual man – a real man of particular height, with hair of a particular colour, speaking a particular language, weighing so many stone. The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man, but (before that) a baby, and before that, a fetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.”

There are two major points Lewis highlights here, one represented by each paragraph. The first is the problem of humanity’s rebellious spirit. Lewis illustrates humanity’s rebellions heart-posture in response to God’s salvific will. God’s plan is to make us into “real humans” – a wonderful gift of life. Our self-centered intuition engages (by default) in response to the idea of Another having their way with our lives – we scream in fear and anguish, “I don’t trust you! You’re killing me!”

The obedient posture of Christ, however, is set in contrast to the rebellious posture of sinful humanity. God the Father invites Jesus to become incarnate –Jesus’ responds with a gentle, “Not my will, but your will be done – I trust you.” Jesus’ example, then, becomes a lesson for sinful humanity through the incarnation. Through Jesus’ obedient response to God the Father, we are able to see that He is, in fact, trustworthy. We’re able to see that he is, in fact, not trying to kill us, but offering us life.

Even as a fetus, Jesus leads us, teaches us. With the incarnation, Jesus demonstrates something that humanity has no experiential frame of reference for: willful downward mobility. This is underlined with Lewis’ last line, “If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.” Lewis isn’t saying that physical being (the flesh) isn’t good – for we know that all God creates is very good. What Lewis is saying, however, is that for the Second Person of the Trinity to be willing to give up all the privileges of being God in order to trust and obey God the Father, he must “downgrade.” This is the heart of Paul’s Christological Kenosis song (“kenosis” meaning “to be emptied”) inPhilippians 2:5-11:

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).

The incarnation represents unwavering obedience that is the natural result of a relationship marked by selfless love (holiness). When we remember Jesus as a baby, we are called to be mindful of his readiness to trust his Father, every step of the way.

Lewis helps us see that the theology of the incarnation (at least this facet, as the incarnation is certainly theologically multi-faceted), runs in parallel with the theology of the cross. You can trust God. He wants what is best for you. Jesus shows the way through his willingness to take on flesh – Jesus shows the way through his willingness to go to Calvary. Let Jesus use our lives to show the way to others that the work of Christ may continue through his saints.


Matt Ayars

President of Wesley Biblical Seminary

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