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The Humiliation of the Christ

Category Articles
Date November 16, 2015

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9).

Theologians speak of both the humiliation and exaltation of Christ. I wish, briefly, to take up the issue of our Lord’s humiliation. He emptied himself, taking the form of a bondservant. That is, Jesus purposely, wilfully, left the glory and perfect Triune love of heaven to become a man. He did not forfeit his deity for that would have been impossible. He did, however, forfeit the glory of heaven, placing himself under the Law, subjecting himself to everything any man is subject to, being tempted to sin just like any other man. In his humanity he needed sleep. He became thirsty, hungry. He asked his disciples who it was who touched him when the woman with the haemorrhage sought healing. He who was rich became poor for our sakes that we might become rich through him. He was born in poverty. His mother wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a cattle trough. He who knew the perfect bliss and comfort of heaven, as an infant, in the night, was cold. On the eighth day he underwent the painful, Jewish ritual of circumcision. Circumcision was symbolic of the necessity of regeneration. ‘So circumcise your heart’ (Deuteronomy 10:16). ‘Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and remove the foreskins of your heart’ (Jeremiah 4:4). Jesus, the pure, undefiled, sinless Son of God, took upon himself the mark of mere man, the need to be made right with God by radical transformation of the heart in regeneration. While having the spiritual presence and fellowship with his heavenly Father, he nonetheless, while on earth, was deprived of his Father’s physical presence. He suffered throughout his earthly life. Surely his incarnation was a shock to his soul. The Holy One entered a world of perversion, violence, hatred, suffering, and injustice. The stench in his nostrils of sin and its consequences must have been overwhelming, much worse than walking through a garbage dump in August in 95 degree heat and 90 percent humidity, much worse than walking through a battlefield, filled with the decomposing flesh of warriors who died four days earlier. For perhaps twenty years or so, Jesus laboured as a carpenter. As a man he had to learn his trade. The work was arduous, back breaking, gruelling, uneventful, not at all glamorous, the work of a servant and not a king. Surely, as the time of his earthly ministry drew near, the weight of why he came began to bear down on him. He submitted to the baptism of John, thus identifying himself with all who needed to repent in order to gain right standing with God. He knew that many would misunderstand him. Even his own brothers thought he had lost His mind. The Pharisees and scribes immediately were suspect of him, and as the day of death approached their hatred and rejection of him escalated to a fever pitch. They said that he was a friend of sinners, that he was demon-possessed, that he was a blasphemer.

One of his closest friends betrayed him, handing him over to the Roman authorities for thirty pieces of silver. One of his other friends, who declared him to be the Christ, who boasted of his own unrelenting fidelity, a few hours later denied him three times before a little girl. Jesus was unjustly arrested, falsely accused, unmercifully beaten, mockingly ridiculed, and horrifically executed by the cruellest of means. He perfectly obeyed the law of God all his days. As a two-year-old he never pitched a temper tantrum; as a pubescent youth, he never back talked his mother; as a seventeen-year-old he never once succumbed to the folly of evil doers; as a twenty-five-year-old man he never lusted after a woman; and as a thirty-year-old carpenter he never cursed when hitting his thumb with a hammer. He became a laughing-stock, a spectacle, the very essence of shame while hanging on the cross. All those consequences of disobeying the Law of God (Deuteronomy 28:15-68) fell upon him. When we hear of someone being executed for a crime we instinctively assume the worst, that he must have committed a horrible crime. And so it was with Jesus. To this day, Jews and Muslims wonder at the incredulity of Christians who glory in Christ’s death. They simply do not understand our rejoicing in such hideous, scandalous death.

However the greatest manifestation of his humiliation was his death on the cross. The wrath of God was poured out on Jesus. God is holy. He must punish sin. He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. God hates all who do iniquity. He destroys all who speak falsehood. He abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit (Psalm 5:6). While on the cross Jesus cried out in horror, quoting Psalm 22, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Jesus went to hell, being separated from his Father.

Why? Why did Jesus suffer humiliation in his incarnation, his life, his suffering, and his death? Consider:

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son … For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world may be saved through Him (John 3:16, 17).

This is My commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that he lay down His life for His friends. You are My friends (John 15:12, 13).

… that the world may know Thou hast sent Me and loved them, even as Thou hast loved Me (John 17:23).

… walk in love just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us an offering and sacrifice to God, as a fragrant aroma (Ephesians 5:2).

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9).

In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent HIs Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).

Jesus suffered, gave himself up for us, because he loves us with his everlasting, covenantal love. He will never leave nor forsake his people. He has drawn us with his lovingkindness. Nothing shall separate us from the love of God which in Christ Jesus our Lord.

By dear friends, we need joy. We need power. We need boldness. We need zeal for kingdom work. Here’s the way to all of these – dwell on the humiliation of Christ, his profound love for you and all sinners. And with your heart filled to the brim with the love of Jesus, go forth into the world and pour out his love on those whom God brings your way.

Rev. Allen M Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. His weekly devotional, ‘Forget None of His Benefits’, can be found here.

If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at

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