Behold the Man, the Word Became Flesh (2005) by Debbie Turner Chavers
copyright 2005

Christmas Day, John 1:1-14 (15-18)

Historical Description:

Sometimes words can take on a life of their own . . . literally.  In Behold the Man, the Word Made Flesh, the contemporary Christian artist Debbie Turner Chavers chose to have  scriptural texts shape the corpus of Jesus on the cross.

Chavers’ choice of medium was hardly done without thought.  How else do we know Jesus other than through His word?  And, maybe more importantly, how else do we know the word other than through Jesus?  In this painting, the moment of our salvation spoken of in the scriptures is acted upon in the body of Christ.  Word and flesh are one.

Devotional Reflection:

How can a Word become flesh?  In the West, we usually think of words as being symbolic.  A word is not often thought of as something physical.  A word is something that is said.  It comes out of the mouth, floats through the air, and then is hopefully heard by someone.  We usually don’t think of words as coming in the flesh.

Initially the prologue to John’s gospel may prove challenging to represent pictorially.  “The Word became flesh.”  How do you portray a “word” becoming flesh?  An artist could have just drawn a picture of baby Jesus in the manger since everyone knows the “word made flesh” is a reference to the incarnation, but in The Word Became Flesh, Debbie Turner Chavers chose another route.  She showed the Word literally becoming Jesus by having Jesus’ body shaped by the printed, biblical Word.

Chavers’ artwork is poignant.  God did not desire to speak to us in a long distance relationship forever.  God wanted to become very close to us.  The words God speaks to us don’t just float around in the air.  God’s Word walks on the ground, touches blind eyes, cries for friends who are dying, orders life out of death and, ultimately, fulfills His Father’s final Word by becoming a sacrifice for this world.  God’s Word did not become flesh so that He could offer idle chit-chat with us or share a cup of coffee.  God’s Word became flesh, Jesus Christ, so that God Himself could pay for our sins through His sinless death on a cross.

Today, the living Jesus still chooses to come to us as a Word.  I do not just mean in the Bible we read.  God certainly speaks through the Bible in mighty ways every single day, but there is another way Jesus comes to us as the Word.  Jesus is pleased to come to His church by means of a simple pastor who speaks simple words of unbelievably good news.  Just like in the Bible, Jesus is still coming to touch you, to heal you, to forgive you and He especially does this through the preached Word.  Jesus longs to be near you, not just in your ear, but to reside in your heart and soul as you cherish and hold onto the promises Jesus makes to you.

God’s Word becomes flesh every time the pastor speaks a word of release to us in the forgiveness of sins.  God’s Word becomes flesh when water bathes a sinner’s head and God declares that sinner to be a saint.  God’s Word becomes flesh every time a believer feasts upon the Words, “Given into death for the forgiveness of all of your sins.”  God’s Word becomes flesh as Christians faithfully exercise their vocations as mother, father, student or worker.  Some words in this world are very real and tangible and touchable, but the greatest is Jesus Christ.  The Word truly has become flesh and thankfully He is still living among us.

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