Christianity 201

May 22, 2011

The Filthy Part of Incarnation

Came across this illustration today.  The set-up is lengthy but drives home the main point with clarity, so don’t rush through, okay?  This is from the blog, The Heretic Mug Collection, where it appeared in January under the title, Christ in the Sewer.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to preach. Being close to Christmas time, the subject of the incarnation seemed appropriate, so I chose the prologue to John’s gospel, chapter 1 verses 1-18. I spent a considerable amount of time on verse 14 “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us.” While pondering this verse I was reminded of something I heard about once while visiting in Siberia.

Forgive me, but to get the full effect of this story requires me to be a bit descriptive. Needless to say, if you have a weak stomach you might not want to read this while eating.

In many Siberian villages homes do not have running water. The toilet then, as you can imagine, is included in this little deficiency. Somewhere in the backyard will be a little building that serves this purpose. A hole is dug and an outhouse is placed on top of it. Usually when one walks in he sees nothing more than a floor with a hole cut in it about 18 inches wide. If it’s done right, the hole goes down about 5 or 6 feet to the bottom. Now here’s where I have to get descriptive. As you can imagine, the bottom of that outhouse is probably the last place on earth anyone would want to fall. It’s horrid, utterly nasty filth that smells worse than it looks. It is the stuff that nightmares are made of.

Now you may have noted the width of this hole, 18 inches. While that’s not big enough for an adult to fall through, it’s plenty big for a small child to slip into. Most of the time this isn’t a problem as the littlest kids will use buckets or little makeshift training potties inside of the house, but from time to time a child’s curiosity gets the best of him and he wanders into the outhouse, slips and falls through that hole. Generally speaking, drowning isn’t common as the ground absorbs the water well enough to keep the “water” level low. But falling to bottom of this outhouse the child still will find himself covered in the most foul filth imaginable, most likely spared serious injury from the fall by the sheer fact that he landed on 6 or 7 inches of soft sewer mud.

So what does one do in this situation? I asked this question hypothetically to a Russian friend once. There are no ladders built for the child to crawl out. In many cases the child it too young to understand the concept of grabbing on to a rope, not that he would even be physically able to hold on long enough to be pulled out. To this question my friend answered “You go down there, get him out and clean him off.” Did you catch that? You crawl into a sewer to save your child. You don’t think about the awfulness of it, the nastiness of it all, you go down there and you save the one you love.

This illustration struck me as I pondered verse 14. Up to that point, Christ’s divinity, glory, power and majesty are all laid out by John. The bottom of an outhouse is no place for the King of Glory, the God of the universe. Then we read that Christ became flesh and dwelt among us. It’s easy to miss the weight of this statement because we have so “sanitized” the manger. The hay is clean, the animals, are clean, there is a warm glow of cozy light as the shepherds gather around. But it goes beyond the physical filth that Christ endured in his birth. Christ who was perfect and sinless came to this sinful, broken world full of murder, hatred, envy, wars, jealousy, lying, and every sin imaginable. He descended to us as we wallowed in the sewer of our sin so that he might lift us out and cleanse us of all of it. The “fall” was just that; it was a collapse into utter filth that we are powerless to escape from. Christ crawled into this sewer to save those he loved.

“Let us mark what kind of Being the Redeemer of mankind must needs be, in order to provide eternal redemption for sinners. If no one less than the Eternal God, the Creator and Preserver of all things, could take away the sin of the world, sin must be a far more abominable thing in the sight of God than most men suppose. The right measure of sin’s sinfulness is the dignity of Him who came into the world to save sinners. If Christ is so great, then sin must indeed be sinful!” – J.C. Ryle

1 Comment »

  1. Wow! Great illustration. Sin in all its ugliness. I have often thought this way regarding the death of Christ, but it is equally true of the incarnation.

    We so often hear of the terrible physical agonies of crucifixion and I am in no way denying this. I believe crucifixion was the cruelest form of death. However I am certain the physical agonies of the crucifixion were almost nothing when compared with the extent of the agony to the Father and the Son when Christ became sin. Surely this was the worst agony of all. No wonder the world was in darkness!

    Comment by meetingintheclouds — May 24, 2011 @ 1:17 am | Reply

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