Incarnation: The Humility of Jesus

WARNING:
This post will be long, but if you take the time to read through it and let it soak into you, I believe it will be worth it.

When we celebrate the Christmas story, there is a reality deeper than the quaint images of sheep in a stable and swaddling clothes in a manger. It’s the reality of the incarnation – that God, the Creator, the infinitely eternal Dreamer of Genesis 1, freely chose to become one of His creation. The Creator created Himself into a fragile body of flesh, and in doing so He proved Himself worthy of the highest exaltation.

To catch the wonder of this, we have to back up…. waaaay up.

HIGH

.     “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?…
.        when the morning stars sang together
.         and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
.     Or who shut in the sea with doors
.         when it burst out from the womb,
.     when I made clouds its garment
.         and thick darkness its swaddling band,
.     and prescribed limits for it
.         and set bars and doors,
.     and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
.         and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?
.     Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
.         and caused the dawn to know its place…?
.     Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
.        or walked in the recesses of the deep?
.     Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
.         or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?”
.                    Job 38:4-17

In Job 38, God puts Job’s life in perspective by giving him a glimpse of what it’s like to be GOD, the eternal, sovereign Creator. He remembers the day when He created the universe out of nothing. He controls all the forces of nature like a puppet master. He is sovereign over it all.

Low

Psalm 113 shows the first step in the humility of God:

.     “The LORD is high above all nations;
.         His glory is above the heavens.
.     Who is like the LORD our God,
.         Who is enthroned on high,
.     Who humbles Himself to behold
.         The things that are in heaven and in the earth?”
.                    Psalm 113:4-6 NASB

God has to humble Himself to even LOOK at the things He has created! The universe itself is so far beneath Him that it’s as if He has to bend over and squint to even see it.

But He does.

He bends down to look

.     at the universe…

.          at the Milky Way…

.               at our solar system…

.                    at Earth…

.                         at each nation…

.                              at each individual human heart.

The fact that He would even acknowledge your existence, the speck within a speck within a speck within a speck, is huge. It takes fathomless humility to even know your name.

Take three minutes and watch this video.

 

lower

Then came the incarnation. The Word made flesh. God not only looks at and interacts with Earth from His distant throne… He chose to step off His throne above the edge of the universe and become one of us.

Breakable, squishy, ugly-bags-of-mostly-water, time-locked, skin-locked, needy, temporary, finite little humanity.

In my opinion, no passage in Scripture captures this descent as well as Philippians 2:5-11.

“…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Philippians 2:5-8

It begins with Jesus in the form of God. In Greek, this word for “form” doesn’t mean appearance or shape. It means His very essence, His very nature. At His core, to His DNA, Jesus WAS God. He had equality with God; not that He was equivalent to God, but He was equal to God. From the beginning, Jesus = God.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
John 1:1-3

Yet, He didn’t choose to grasp tightly onto His status as God. He willingly let go of His position and rights as God. In the NIV, “something to be grasped” is translated “something to be used to his own advantage”. He had every right to simply rest on His own divinity, but He chose to forsake His own rights and empty Himself.

So He was born in the likeness of men… in human form. He who was in the form of God took on human form. God-nature took on human-nature. Deity became humanity. The infinite became finite.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”
John 1:14

This is a staggering descent. It’s literally immeasurable. If you or I became an ant, it would be a huge downgrade, but it would be theoretically possible to measure the differences between a human and an ant. God is so completely Other that it is impossible to measure just how different He is. For God to become human is an infinite descent.

In being born, Jesus had to first be in the womb of Mary for 9 months. GOD was once the size of a grapefruit… and an apple… and a paperclip… and microscopic. When the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, the Son of God was conceived as a single cell.

God was once a single-celled organism. Fully God, fully human… microscopic in the womb of a young woman.

lower

Of course, the most powerful men on Earth started as only one cell. Jesus went lower even than that.

He took the form of a servant.

“…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…”
Matthew 20:28

He could have come as a great human king, and even that would have been infinitely beneath Him! Instead, He chose to be born in the most humble of ways– to a poor couple from a disreputable town, largely uncelebrated in a stable, then worked as an unassuming carpenter until He was released into ministry… when He set the example by washing His disciples’ feet.

.     “For he grew up before him like a young plant,
.         and like a root out of dry ground;
.     he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
.         and no beauty that we should desire him.
.                   Isaiah 53:2

But then…

lowest.

He came lower still.

He became obedient to the point of death.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Luke 22:42

The Author of life… died. More than that, He didn’t peacefully pass away quietly, but He was executed in the most gruesome form of torture ever devised.

The Author of life, clothed in light, who from the dawn of creation has had ceaseless adoration rising around His throne…

…died on a tree, naked, with blood and spit dripping down His body, with angry insults and blasphemies clamouring around Him.

.     He was despised and rejected by men,
.         a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
.     and as one from whom men hide their faces
.         he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
.     Surely he has borne our griefs
.         and carried our sorrows;
.     yet we esteemed him stricken,
.         smitten by God, and afflicted.
.                   Isaiah 53:3-4

Despised and rejected.

Despised by the ones He knew and loved so deeply.

Rejected by the very ones He came so infinitely low to rescue.

This is the crux of the incarnation. This is Jesus, the King of Glory, at His lowest.

The ultimate, deepest humility.

BUT.

H I G H E S T

Philippians 2 turns a sharp 180° on one word–

“THEREFORE.”

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:9-11

As quickly as Jesus came so low, He shoots up again to be “highly exalted”. There’s something unique about this exaltation, though. It’s not just the glory He had with the Father before the incarnation; this is exaltation as a human. This is the promise of His future exaltation as the Son of David, the prophesied Davidic King of the earth. One Day (capitalisation intended) He will be publicly and fully recognised as the sovereign authority of the planet, when He returns and establishes His Kingdom from Jerusalem.

Don’t miss this– the Davidic King has to be actually human. Jesus didn’t just temporarily put on a human costume and shed it when He ascended. He became permanently, irrevocably human forever. In heaven now, He has a glorified human body, similar to the glorified human bodies believers will have one day. When He sits on the throne in Jerusalem forever, He will do so as a human King: a literal, physical descendent of David.

What stunning humility.

To me, the most fascinating part of this Philippians 2 passage is in the THEREFORE. He is exalted because He was obedient to the point of death. His extravagant humility which led Him all the way to the cross is directly why He is worthy to rule as King.

This THEREFORE is all over Scripture.

.     “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
.         and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
.     because he poured out his soul to death
.         and was numbered with the transgressors…”
.                   Isaiah 53:12

.     “Worthy are you to take the scroll
.         and to open its seals,
.     for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God…”
.                   Revelation 5:9

He is worthy to open the scroll, release the plans of God, and rule the earth because He was slain.

Because of His great humility, He has proven His worthiness.

This is a King we can fully trust– the one who came so low for us. He has proven His love.

This is how we can trust that He won’t be a cruel or selfish or distant dictator. He has withstood every test and temptation. He has proven His love, humility, and commitment to us by His birth, life, and death. And God has vindicated and affirmed Him by His resurrection.

When we look at the baby in a manger, we can see the God who came so, so low to demonstrate His love by taking on flesh and dying on a tree, and the coming King who proved His trustworthiness to rule.

To me, that is breathtakingly beautiful.

God, You became a man
You took on flesh
You’re so beautiful

“One Found Worthy” by Justin Rizzo

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Encountering the Crucifixion

crucifixion-definition-5841eb355f9b5851e56dbb11-01

This is the story of an experience I had on Wednesday night, August 15. I was sitting in the prayer room reading Matthew 27, and as I often do during key moments in the Gospels, I closed my eyes and entered into the scene in my imagination. I won’t claim this was any kind of open vision third heaven experience, nor will I claim that this entire thing is prophetic, so take it with a grain of salt, but I definitely ended up experiencing some emotions that did not come from me, at least in a small measure. In my imagination, I was watching the scene from heaven’s perspective:

 

I am in heaven with the angels and the Father, watching Jesus being beaten below us. The angels are silent in horror, and it feels like all of heaven is silently screaming, “NO! Not the Perfect One! Not the Righteous One! Anyone else, but not Him! Do you have any idea Who you’re abusing right now?” This is the glorious eternal Word of God, who shines in light and has eyes of fire. He is perfect, spotless, marvellous, glorious, and there he is, stripped naked, dripping blood, ripped to shreds, taunt after taunt echoing around him. These angels have spent their entire existence worshipping and serving the Son and gazing on his radiance, and now all they can do is watch.

Michael grips his sword anxiously. “Just say the word, just say the word,” he mutters. One word from Jesus would send the armies now poised on the edge of heaven swarming down to the earth to free him and strike in vengeance against his executioners. But Michael is restrained. All he can do is watch.

And how the Father suffers! Every lash of the whip cuts deep into the Father’s heart, and I feel it as well. This is his Son! The apple of his eye and the joy of his heart since eternity past, heart of his heart, Spirit of his Spirit, his partner in creation and redemption. And this Beloved is now receiving the brunt of every kind of cruel abuse and rejection.

And then it gets worse. The Father unleashes his wrath and forsakes his own. He is sitting on the throne, gathering every ounce of anger and judgment stored up from every corner of history and hurling it all down on Jesus like lightening. I can see the lightening flashing out of his hands as he screams in fury and agony. He hates what he is doing, but he is fully committed to doing it.

God, what kind of sick, twisted agreement have you made?

The accuser stands before the throne gleeful, lashing out every accusation against the Holy One. “He has lied, he has coveted, he has committed adultery, child abuse, theft, slander, rape, genocide, holocausts, abortion, blasphemy, pride, homosexuality, idolatry, witchcraft, injustice…” The list goes on and on. Every sin from all of human history is blamed on Jesus.

And the Father is silent. There is no intercessor to defend him before the throne of judgment. The Father cannot speak one word in his Son’s defence. Instead, he stands in agreement and continues pouring out judgment.

And Jesus! Hanging on that rough wooden cross, arms outstretched, completely vulnerable and abused and violated in every way. And he knows what is happening. This spotless, glorious soul feels his spirit overcome with the filth of sin without measure, smothering him like a living tar. And Holy Spirit, who from eons past has been his best friend and partner in every glory and every burden, abandons him. Jesus is completely alone, humiliated, cut off, tormented.

“ELI, ELI, LEMA SABACHTHANI?”

One last laboured breath escapes his cracked lips… and he is still.

The Father falls back on the throne, spent, empty. It is finished.

In the temple the veil tears, and in the cemeteries bodies climb out of tombs. Already what will be is leaking backwards through time. But the sky is grey, and the onlookers at Golgotha are silent.

“Truly this was the Son of God.”

Jesus’ body is laid away. The disciples cower in the upper room. I am with them. They are dumbfounded. I try to encourage them, but my words mean nothing to them, and they sound hollow even to me. There can be no joy today.

But then Sunday morning! The women are going to the tomb. I go with them elated—I know what has happened.

Oh, that glorious empty tomb, with the wrappings neatly folded on the bench!

And then – THERE HE IS! He is so beautiful, so ALIVE, every bit of skin restored and glowing. Just the scars remain, and even they are beautiful beyond belief.

Jesus, what was your first thought when you woke up in that tomb?

“It’s over. It worked. WE GOT THEM.”