The Scandal of the Incarnation

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

Isaiah 45:6b-8, 18, 21c-25; Luke 7:18b-23 (Matthew 11:2-6)

At that time Jesus cured many of their diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits; he also granted sight to many who were blind. And Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

Luke 7:21-23

Jesus sent the disciples of John the Baptist back with a report of signs and wonders lifted from the pages of Isaiah happening in their own day and age (Isaiah 26:19; 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 61:1). Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God equal to the Father eventually became a “stumbling block,” offense, and scandal to many. The signs and wonders were an aid for those who could not accept the mystery of God becoming a man: “If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize [and understand] that the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (John 10:37-38).1

For a man to claim to be God amounted to blasphemy. Who but the invisible, untouchable, formless God can say, “I am the Lord, there is no other. I form the light, and create the darkness, I make weal and create woe; I, the Lord, do all these things” (Isaiah 45:6-7)? The God of the burning bush, Mount Sinai, and the Temple in Jerusalem can say, “To me every knee shall bend; by me every tongue shall swear, saying, ‘Only in the Lord are just deeds and power’” (Isaiah 45:23-24). But Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary? 


1 St. Cyril of Alexandria writes in his Commentary on Luke, Homily 37:

“And blessed is he who is not offended in me!” The Jews were indeed offended, either as not knowing the depth of the mystery or because they did not seek to know the mystery. Every part of the inspired Scripture announced beforehand that the Word of God would humble himself to emptiness and be seen on earth… Although they plainly saw him clothed with unspeakable dignity and surpassing glory, by means of the wondrous deeds he performed, they threw stones at him and said, “Why do you, being a man, make yourself God?” In answer to these things Christ rebuked the immeasurable infirmity of their intellect and said, “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not; but if I do, then though you believe not me, believe my works.” Blessed is he who does not stumble against Christ, that is, he who believes him.

From Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Luke, Arthur A. Just Jr., editor, and Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 121.

One Reply to “The Scandal of the Incarnation”

  1. Dear GMC, Thank you for your reflection which invites us all to enter into God’s kingdom with hearts renewed. May our encounter with the disciples of John strengthen our faith and may the Lord cleanse us of our faults.

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