The Essence of Christ
Phil.2:5-7 - Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, though it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant…
Every attribute that can remotely be called good was inherent in Christ Jesus. And all these attributes were without measure and surely eclipsing anything known to earthly man, for this man was the Lord from heaven. Love was His and shown in many ways. Mercy and grace and patience were all revealed throughout His short journey in this world. He was the manifested Son of the Living God and He manifested God through the prism of a human frame.
But perhaps the essence of Christ in His incarnation was humility. It all begins with Mary. An obscure and unremarkable peasant girl, maybe as young as 13 or 14 years old, is chosen by God for the unfathomable privilege of providing a womb through which God would send His Son. She has had no notoriety or fame before Gabriel’s visitation and after the Day of Pentecost in Acts she will disappear as neither Paul, Peter, or John will even make mention of her again. So God did not choose a woman of great education or stature, He chooses a young girl who will both gather no glory for herself and also give God all the glory of this majestic mystery. Her spirit immediately humbly acquiesces to Gabriel’s message and she says, “My soul does magnify the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, for he has regarded the lowly estate of His handmaiden…”.
So the Incarnation begins in humility. Fast forward nine months and we see an obviously pregnant Mary walking and riding among the throngs that are traveling to the destination of their taxation. No one notices and no one is aware that the Creator of the universe is among them and will shortly come forth in the likeness of a man. So many people came to Bethlehem that there was no room in the inn for Mary and Joseph so they had to make their bed in a stable. And it was in this environment that Mary gave birth to Christ and He was laid in a feeding trough, a manger. Even the poorest in Judaea would not have laid their baby in a tough, but such was the first place the Lord Jesus came to rest on this earth. Lowliness, meekness, and humility were the foundation of His entrance.
Now as unremarkable and humble a birth that Bethlehem afforded, the town of Nazareth was even more humble and seemingly unworthy of anything special. The childhood of Christ was so unpretentious that the Scriptures only include the events of one pilgrimage to Jerusalem, no other mention of Christ’s childhood is recorded. So His childhood remains indistinguishable from any other boys growing up in Nazareth. Humble and indistinct, He was known as Joseph’s son which was another way in which He showed His humility by allowing some to surmise that He had come through the loins of Joseph when in fact He had been born of the Holy Spirit Himself.
Now the Incarnation itself, that God would come as a man, was an incredible act of humility itself. The condescension in that manifestation is beyond our ability to comprehend. And after approximately thirty years of abject obscurity we see the Incarnate Christ approaching the Jordan River. Surely He has come to take over John the Baptist’s ministry, but look, the Creator bows to be baptized by a man and in humility He keeps His identity a secret when He could have shouted it upon the housetops. Think long on this, many who witnessed the Lord’s baptism wrongly assumed He was being baptized for the remission of sins which of course He had none, but His humility again insulated Him from any need to protect His reputation. How different He was than are we.
Follow Jesus in His earthly ministry and watch Him endure mockings and betrayals, demeaning and rejections, and yet He continues to exhibit a teaching of humility and selflessness, and perhaps His strongest teachings surrounded the traits of a disciple who must forsake himself in order to follow in Christ’s footsteps. Those are so easy to relegate to some powerless metaphors so as to remove the sacrifice that must accompany a true disciple. Surely Jesus could not have meant that we must forsake everything to follow Him, could He?
Fast forward again as the Lord enters Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and to the cheers and hosannas of the Jewish crowd. They laid palm braches before Him as if He were a king, so how can that be described as humble? Please remember that Jesus knew they were praising Him for selfish and misguided reasons, you see, they had assumed He was coming to take them out of Roman bondage and so in essence the entire scene was a lie. But the Lord did not require His reputation to be untarnished, or to be recognized as to who He really was, no, his humility granted grace and mercy to the lips that sang His praises now and would call for His death in a few days. And you and I take up an offense for the slightest misrepresentation of our precious reputation.
Look now, He kneels to pray in that sacred garden fully realizing Judas was cementing His betrayal at that very moment and yet still He prays. We are distracted by a loud car and yet the Lord prays with His betrayal being negotiated and His disciples asleep. Again His humility was such that He needs no protection or defense because His approval was never from man anyway. Soon the military mob that He knew was forming would come to arrest Him at the direction of one who He had shown such love. Behold, He goes without violence and even rebukes Peter for defending Him. What kind of man is this that seems to embrace injustice and even insult to His holiness? This is no ordinary man and this is no ordinary demonstration of humbleness in the face of universal rejection, this is the essence of His mission.
Look again as He stands before Ciaphas and Herod and Pilate, innocent and yet accused as guilty. Perhaps now He will complain and find fault with His faithless disciples, perhaps now He will rise up in indignation and throw off the chains of colossal injustice and proclaim Himself Master of the Universe, perhaps now He will summon the armies of heaven and destroy all those who have mistreated Him so severely. If you await such a scene you will be eternally disappointed for the Lord of Glory continues to endure the disdain and scorn of sinful men and He stands in embarrassing humility and accepts His fate even before His purpose is revealed. And if that show of unthinkable humility doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, perhaps this will. He stood there and endured it all for you.
Look further. He is beaten, whipped, mocked, and probably almost killed before they stop. He is clothed with the garments of mocking not praise, His beard which was a sign of Jewish manhood is ripped from His face, the disgusting spit from the lips of men who kissed whores now adorns His face, that same face is punched while blindfolded, His prophetic mantle is challenged to locate who punched Him, and thorns, the sign of the curse, are pressed down into His scalp as a scornful crown. He is a mess and one might ask what further humiliation will He endure, how much further can they desecrate God’s Son?
We are now ready to enter into the greatest and most profound act of humility ever witnessed by the eyes of history. Remove the sandals from your heart for this is holy ground and can only be understood even in part by the illumination of the Spirit of God. That God would come as man, that God would be unrecognized, that God would be mocked, that God would be beaten, and that God would be judged guilty are untold mysteries to the natural man. But that God would die, and that by murder, and yet that by crucifixion is a mystery of humble love that may never be fully understood throughout eternity. How can God die a brutal, torturous death that doesn’t even afford Him the privacy of this injustice but carries this crucifixion out in open public, and God Himself assures it is recorded in the pages that will live as an everlasting witness to what they did to Him and what He has done for them, both of which revolve around the same spectacle.
Listen as God draws His last earthly breath and bows His head and dies. God dies? GOD DIES??? The word humility is a poor description of this event and the depth of that selflessness is hidden in the treasure of the Godhead only peeked at by a regenerate sinner given revelation by God’s Spirit. Equally confounding is how can God die and why would God die. You and I might give our lives for our children and maybe our mates, but that list suddenly drops off the cliff as to who we would actually give our lives for. Would we give our lives for Hitler? For Manson? For a child molester? And even these examples fall short of accurately representing what Christ did for sinful man since we are infinitely closer in moral substance to Hitler than Christ is to man. Oh yes, we are rebellious enemies of the Creator who without the ministry of God’s Spirit do not care for anything but ourselves.
So when Christ resurrects from the dead, when the stone rolls away from the mouth of death, and when the dead God walks from the grave alive forevermore and victorious over death, only then can we glean some perspective as to the depth of His humility against the backdrop of who He actually was. So if this is the Christ, Son of the Living God, who was that we saw upon the Roman cross? That beaten and bruised body, that bloody and grotesque form, was this same Christ revealing an obedience unto death that will always be the single most sacrificial act of humility which was accomplished for us. And this act of selflessness was given for even those who would still reject Him. This cannot be captured by words or even thoughts, and I struggle to think sometimes my own words tether Him to the linguistic parameters of man’s language while the enormity of His cross soars beyond the understandings of angels. But so let us never cease to aim higher with our words and with our thoughts and surely with our praise of Him who bowed down to enter Golgotha’s door…….for us.
Now if the essence of Christ was humility, what should the distinguishing mark of our followship be as believers? In the midst of a sinful and rebellious world, what should we strive to project to the inhabitants of this darkness? Oh yes we must preach the gospel, but wrapped in what package? Should not our humbleness be a distinguishing feature of our lives and words, and not just as methodology, but as an actual expression of the Christ who lives within us? And in the midst of disagreements among the followers of Christ, even serious disagreements, don’t we have an obligation to the Christ we follow to remain humble and selfless even if we deem ourselves to be correct and used of God?
The runaway train of disdain and scorn and demeaning humor has left the station and in so doing the humility of Christ has been left behind. Reflect on what we just visited about our Wonderful Lord and look through that prism and see if you can identify that same spirit within the unraveling discourse that parades as Christian but mostly resembles the former television show named “Crossfire”. There is a dramatic difference between defending truth and behaving like Jesus and it is possible to pursue both while it is also possible to pursue only one.
There is power in Christ’s humility including the approval of heaven itself. In our families, in our workplaces, in our churches, in the world, and among ourselves we must display and consciously exercise the humility that exhibits His life and not ours. The world must see that we are not forcing Christ upon them, we are humbly offering Him to them. And one way in which they will see that is if they see that same humility displayed among us, His believers. Humility in God’s church is a commodity that seems in short supply in today’s rights oriented Christianity, but the full power of His humility remains an untapped resource through which God will entrust the fullness of His Spirit. If we continue to reject the humility we see in Christ’s life we will continue to have what we have now, a room filled with talkers, each with a piece of the argument, and each believing that the success of their position depends upon the cleverness, literary prowess, and volume of their theological presentation.
Somehow our Savior did not need those ingredients, His power was made perfect in weakness. Maybe we should give that a try?