In the letters we call 1 and 2 John, the apostle is combatting what he feels is a destructive heresy that has found its way into the Church. He calls it the “spirit of the antichrist,” (1 John 2:18-19, 4:2-3, 2 John 7) that is, any person who “does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.” This will rot the Church from the inside out, John is certain of it. It deserves our most serious attention and concern. Antichrist wants to take the Christ out of Jesus and the Jesus out of Christ. Antichrist wants us to believe that Jesus only seemed human, that spirit and flesh cannot truly dwell together, and therefore that the Spirit of God cannot actually dwell within us – there will always be at least a little distance between God and us, despite John’s gospel proclamation to the contrary: “Those who abide in love abide in God and God abides in them.” (1 John 4:16)
John is not the only one in scripture trying to imprint upon us just how essential it is that Jesus Christ shares in our flesh and blood nature. For one whose flesh-and-blood-ness is supposedly up for debate, the Jesus of the Gospels sure does seem to care a lot about making people able to walk and see and hear, finding sick people and making them well, not simply in some highfalutin spiritual way, but physically. Jesus heals people’s hands and feet and legs and eyeballs and skin diseases and hemorrhages and fills their empty stomachs. Is there a spiritual dimension to these healings? Yes, of course! Because for Jesus, the physical and the spiritual are all one thing – the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).
The Gospel of Luke tells us that the resurrected Jesus eats a piece of fish in front of his disciples just to prove that his body still properly digests food and that he is, in fact, not a ghost. In our weekly practice of the Lord’s Supper, we don’t remember the death of Jesus week in and week out with words or thoughts or ideas. We remember the death of Jesus week in and week out by eating bread together, by drinking from the cup together. We remember Jesus by tasting him. “This is my body, this is my blood, says Jesus. It does not seem so – it is so! Let this be the very real, very sensory way by which you remember the sacrifice that brings you salvation.” The Word became flesh, John tells us. The Word was happy to become flesh. The Word did not despise the flesh and it did not become flesh on accident. The apostle Paul says it so perfectly: “In Jesus all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” (Colossians 1:19) The word Paul uses here – dwell – it is the Greek verb form of house. God lived in Jesus like a house and he found that house to be perfectly pleasing. It wasn’t a starter home or a fixer upper. For God it was the perfect house. The body of Jesus and the fullness of God are a perfect match for each other.
The Word became flesh. God dwelt in the body of a human. The truth is (and it’s not only true, but good news!), there is no distance between us and God, between spirit and flesh, because the fullness of God is laying claim to every part of our existence (physical, spiritual, all of it) just as he did to every part of Jesus. To insist that any such distance does in fact exist is to let something sinister, something very anti-Christ take hold of us. Those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. There is no distance. May we awaken to God’s fullness dwelling within us.