Saturday, February 26, 2011

Jesus' Humiliation: Born under the Law

We continue meditating on the humiliation of Jesus. It has several steps. We are continuing in the second step, his life of suffering.

In this posting we see one aspect of this suffering: he was born under the law.

Scoffers and Schizophrenia

This is part of Jesus’ voluntary humiliation.

“God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law.” (Gal 4:4-5)

Jesus “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15)

Scoffers say, “Man is born under the law. Jesus was a man. It’s no big deal that he should be under the law like the rest of us. How can you say that this was suffering and humiliation?”

Believers also have difficulty with Jesus’ life under the law. We know that Jesus is both God and man. We tend to view him as having a split personality. We are prone to thinking that it was easy for Jesus to obey the law because He is God’s Son. He obeyed, we think, from his divine nature. His human nature hardly had any part in it.

The schizophrenia is not in Jesus but in our view of him. Jesus is not schizophrenic. He is a Mediator.

The Mediator between God and Man

Our text above pictures Jesus:
  •  “God sent forth His Son” – his divinity
  •  “Born of a woman” – his humanity
  •  “Born under the law” – his humility
  • “To redeem those who were under the law” – his office as Mediator between God and man
Because Jesus is God and man, he can be the Mediator between God and Man.lace “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.” (1 Tim 2:5-6)

His office as Mediator is the key. At different times, Jesus either used or chose not to use his divine powers. His decision was based on this: what was necessary to fulfill his office as Mediator.
Jesus always had divine powers. We see them break forth at times, as when he fed the five and the four thousand, raised Lazarus from the dead, cleansed lepers, and cast out demons. He did those things to fulfill prophesy and to create faith. When John the Baptist was in prison, he sent disciples asking,

“Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Mt 11:3-6)

Doing the prophesied divine works was necessary to mediate between John and God, and then between all of us and God. Therefore Jesus chose to use his divine powers to do the prophesied divine works.

How Jesus Humbled Himself

Usually, however, Jesus laid his divine powers aside and did not use them. While Jesus could walk on water, he usually used a boat. While he could turn water into wine and multiply loaves and fishes to feed thousands, he usually used food and drink that was furnished naturally.[1]

As Mediator, he came “to redeem those who were under the law.” To mediate, Jesus needed to be under the law in the same way as those he would redeem were under it: as humans.

Jesus “humbled Himself and became obedient.” (Phil 2:8) This is the humbling: while still having full divine powers that he could have used, Jesus voluntarily laid those powers aside and did not use them.[2] Instead, he lived under the law only by human power. He could have used his divine powers, but that would not “redeem those who were under the law.”

He had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Heb 2:17)

How This Is Suffering

We think it is tough for us to live under the law. We have taken the easy way out. We have given in to temptation.

In our resistance to temptation, we keep no vigil. We resist now and then. We resist for brief periods of time. We do not maintain full vigor. We experience surges in our struggle, and surges show that most of our resistance is lazy.

To keep a fully vigorous vigil would exhaust us. In Gethsemane, it actually put the disciples to sleep after one hour.

He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt 26:40-21)

Let’s not think ourselves better than these guys. These are the best disciples Jesus has. The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak.

“The law … was weak through the flesh.” (Rom 8:3) Jesus had to resist temptation in that weakness. Jesus’ flesh, his human nature, was weak. He had to fight from weakness, just like we would, if only we would fight. He had to watch. He had to pray. He had to defeat the Devil and the world every moment.

Under the Law for Us

As Jesus tired in his resistance to temptation, was there a temptation we don’t face? In his struggling, was He tempted to quit using only his human powers? Was he tempted right at the point of his humility, his voluntary laying aside of his divine powers? Was He tempted to pick up and use his divine powers to save his holiness?

We have our easy way out. We just give in to temptation. He had an easy way out. He could have quit his office as Mediator. He could have abandoned us in our sin. He stuck with the hard way.

[1] Pr. William P. Terjesen, “Jesus Humbled Himself”,
[2] Francis Pieper, II Christian Dogmatics, pp. 281-92. (Concordia Publishing House, 1951). The Incarnation itself is not part of the humiliation of Christ. Id., p. 292. Nor does the humbling or emptying of Christ mean that he lost his divinity, that He lost his divine powers, or that his divine powers were diminished. Id., pp. 292-01.

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