We hate to be humiliated in any way. But our sin forfeits our right to honour and praise. Consider who we are: in ourselves, fully leprous in our souls and deserving of shame. But we crave praise, honour, and glory. Consider who Christ is: in himself, fully righteous, and deserving of praise, honour, and worship. But he received shame and ridicule in every way.
Jesus entered the world in poverty, then lived and died in the same (2 Corinthians 8:9). Bernard of Clairvaux (1093–1153) once said, ‘By how much the viler he was made for me, by so much dearer he shall be to me’. Indeed.
There are so many statements in God’s Word that would shock us if we actually thought deeply concerning what they communicate. Deep meditation upon a verse, paying attention to its context, of course, at times yields a great deal more fruit in our lives than reading several chapters of God’s Word in one setting.
The responses to Christ’s ministry of truth and mercy were astounding. His family at one time thought he was ‘out of his mind’ (Mark 3:21). For a period, even his own brothers did not believe in him and turned to taunting him to manifest his messianic ministry (John 7:3-5).
The negative responses went beyond his earthly to his spiritual family. Judas betrayed him with a kiss (Mark 14:33-35); he superficially embraced Christ, only to sceptically deny the Lord and traded the eternal Saviour for a fleeting bag of change. Even beloved Peter denied him three times (Luke 22:54-62).
The Gospels highlight most significantly the rejection of his own people, the Jewish nation, who had been waiting for the Messiah to come. As John makes clear in his prologue, ‘[Jesus] was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him’ (John 1:10-11; see also John 3:11, 32; 5:43).
Christ’s teachings, which were the words of eternal life (6:69), were not received from him with joy and gladness. When Jesus claimed to exist before Abraham (John 8:58), the Jews did what they thought was the only appropriate thing to do when a man called himself, ‘I Am’, the eternal self-existent God: they picked up stones to throw at him (John 8:59).
Little did they know that they were attempting to stone the very Rock of Ages. They did not ‘Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock’ (Isaiah 26:4).
On one occasion, Simon the Pharisee denigrated our Saviour by denying him the hospitality he deserved: ‘Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
‘You gave me no kiss, but, from the time I came in, she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment’ (Luke 7:44-46).
The creator of heaven and earth did not receive the expected treatment of guests by their hosts. How Simon needed to heed Psalm 2:12, ‘Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him’.
Of no other man was the following truer than it was for Christ: ‘He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him’ (John 1:11).
Did anyone ever speak such truth as the one who is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6)? And yet, with all of the visible attestations accompanying his ministry — whether the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, or the voice of his Father, or his miracles, or his words of life — his countrymen still did not believe in him.
They spitefully rejected the Lord of glory. They called him a deceiver, who leads people astray (John 7:12). Moreover, Jesus informed his disciples that his eating and drinking was interpreted in the worst possible light: as gluttony and drunkenness (Matthew 11:19).
And his miracles — acts of mercy upon the needy — were likewise interpreted as being performed by a satanic power (Matthew 9:34). The Jewish people preferred to have a murderer turned loose upon their community (Mark 15:7) than have anything more to do with the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
Is there, then, any humiliation for us that is too great? There is no situation conceivable for sinners like us, where we can compare ourselves to the humiliation of Jesus in his life and in his death (see Philippians 2:5-11). Thus, we must embrace humiliation and suffering for Christ’s sake.
Paul makes this clear in Philippians 3, where he speaks about gaining Christ at the expense of everything else. But what does it mean to gain him? Besides receiving a righteousness not of our own, but one that comes through faith, we will also find ourselves, along with Paul, sharing in Christ’s sufferings.
We know him and the power of his resurrection, through our fellowship with him in his sufferings, ‘becoming like him in his death’ (Philippians 3:10), so that ‘by any means possible’ we may ‘attain the resurrection from the dead’ (Philippians 3:11).
Such a mindset existed for the Puritan, John Geree (c.1601–1649), who said of the Puritan in general that, in this life, his ‘captain’ is Christ, his weapons are ‘prayers and tears’, his ‘banner’ is the cross, and his motto is ‘Vincit qui patitur’, meaning, ‘He who suffers is victorious’.
While it goes against everything our Western society would teach us, our glory as Christians is our humiliation. For our humiliation, in the name of Christ, is our badge that we belong to him and will one day be exalted to reign with him in glory.
‘Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time he may exalt you’ (1 Peter 5:6).
This article from Reformation 21, the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (www.reformation21.org) is used with permission. The author is Senior Minister at Faith, Vancouver Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Vancouver, Canada.