No one really knows who coined the phrase “skin in the game.” Some say it was the investing legend Warren Buffett. Others point to Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice in which Antonio must promise a pound of his own flesh as collateral in the event his friend, Bassiano, defaults on his loan.
The idea is that you have enough of your equity at stake that you are sufficiently motivated to support or pursue the desired outcome. The “game” is the field of play. It could be anything from the Superbowl to your kid’s college education. Or the gospel.
In John 1:1-4, the Bible says that “1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” And then later in verse 14 of that chapter it says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
There are several important truths in this passage about Christ and his incarnation:
1) His deity. Not a prophet. Not a good teacher. Not a really nice guy. God (vv. 1, 14). It’s a claim that left little room for neutrality. Either Jesus was who he said he was, or he was out of his mind. His resurrection from the dead points to the former, but at the end of the day it comes down to faith (Romans 10:9).
2) His pre-existence. Prior to his presence on earth, Christ existed in a different form: as the Word, or in the Greek, logos – who was manifest as God’s active creation, revelation, and redemption since the beginning of time. Many people, including believers and non-believers, miss this point and think of Jesus’s existence starting as baby born in Bethlehem. But the Bible clearly teaches that the father, Son, and Holy Spirit have always existed since the beginning. Jesus was not created, but was rather the agent of all creation (see vv. 2-3 above and the parallels to Gen 1:1).
3) His dual nature. He took on flesh. In other words he took on a human form. This is a mindboggling truth that is easy to casually brush past as we enter the Christmas season. The omnipotent king of all creation took on the fragile frame of a mortal man. The one who knit each of us together in our mother’s womb allowed himself to be woven, cell by cell and strand by DNA strand, in Mary’s womb. The one whose presence transcends the universe condescended to a singularity with two hands and two feet. He remained the same person; he remained fully God. But he also became fully man at the same time, with all of our aches and pains, all of our weariness, our hunger, our thirst, and our temptations. He worked hard at a real job (carpentry), he sweat real sweat, cried real tears, and bled real blood. When he was betrayed by those closest to him he felt real hurt. When God became man he was all-in – it was a 100% transaction not a 50/50 or 80/20. He became fully man. But he also was still fully God. He was God in human flesh – the God-man, which is to say he was God incarnate.
4) His mission. He dwelt among us (vs. 14) – literally “tabernacled” with us referring to the Old Testament tent of meeting where God’s presence dwelled, His glory was revealed, and human sin was atoned. The tabernacle was a portable version of the Holy Place in the future temple where once a year the chief priest would bring a blood offering into the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was kept (Exodus 25, Leviticus 16:14, 17:11-14). Inside the Ark of the Covenant was the law – the actual stone tablets with the 10 commandments. The blood sacrifice from the perfect lamb without blemish would be sprinkled on the golden lid of the ark, which was called the mercy seat. When God looked down from above he would no longer see the broken law but would instead see the blood of the atoning sacrifice on behalf of the whole Israelite nation. Jesus came as the tabernacle, God’s presence among us, but more than that he came to be our high priest who would enter the Holy of Holies and mediate on our behalf. And he didn’t bring the blood of a perfect lamb. He only brought himself because he was (and is) the perfect Lamb who lived a life without sin. The blood he sprinkled onto the mercy seat was his own blood. His death on the cross atones for the sins of those who put their faith in him (see Hebrews 9:1-21). That was his mission; that’s why he came. He came to ultimately be both our high priest and our atoning sacrifice – and he accomplished both on the cross.
Like in the Merchant of Venice, Christ entered our story to become our Antonio, who would put his own flesh on the line to cover the debt of our sin before a holy God. But unlike that story, he isn’t just a friend, he is our priest, our sacrifice, and now our conquering King! Thank you Jesus, for coming to rescue us, for making a way for us to be in relationship with a Holy God, for paying our debt. Thank you Jesus for having skin in the game!
Hebrews 9:11-12 “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of blood of goats and claves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”