Monday, February 21, 2011

Jesus' Humiliation: A Holy Man of Sinners

We are meditating on the humility of Jesus.

In previous postings, we set the stage to show his humility in his voluntary humiliation. Then we began to look at the humiliation itself. It has several steps. In the last posting, we looked at the first step: his birth in poverty. We saw that Jesus, by his own humility, not by having it forced upon him, brought himself low into poverty, into nowhere, into bad reputation.

We carry on now to the second step: his life of suffering.
In every moment of his life, Jesus was a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. (Is 53:3) We will paint his life of suffering with a small number of brisk brushstrokes. Even limiting ourselves to that, we cannot look at it in a single posting.
In this posting we focus on one vital aspect of his life of suffering. Jesus was a holy man of sinners.

Damning Jesus by Faint Praise
Many damn Jesus by faint praise. They call him a “man of the people.” People suffer, and lowly people suffer more. They say he associated himself with people, especially lowly people. They say this shows his humility. That is true, but faint.
The faintness causes unbelievers to scoff saying, “Man suffers. Jesus was a man. It’s no big deal that he should suffer like the rest of us. What is so special about his suffering?”
What is Special about Jesus’ Suffering?
Before their fall into sin, Adam and Eve did not suffer. Everything was beautimous!
But then they turned from faith in the word of God to unbelief. Unbelief in their hearts moved their hands and feet to trespass against the law of God. Then, pain and suffering began.
To Adam, God said,
Cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread. (Gn 3:17-19)
To Eve, He said,
In pain you shall bring forth children. (Gn 3:16)
Look at our condemnation in the text: “because of you,” the ground is cursed. “Because of you,” in pain you shall eat of it. This is our blameworthy guilt: our unbelief. All havoc is wreaked by this. All pain and suffering comes from sin.
All are sinners. Well, not quite all. Here is what’s special: Jesus alone was not a sinner.
John’s Baptism of Repentance
John the Baptist preached and baptized with a baptism of repentance. He said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mt 3:2) People were baptized by him, “confessing their sins.” (Mt 3:6) Ordinary people, tax collectors, and soldiers asked John what they should do to repent. He gave them specific answers. (Lk 3:10-1)
But then John saw people coming for baptism who were not confessing sin, who were not repenting.
He said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. (Mt 3:7-8)
Without confession and repentance, John did not baptize.
Jesus Insisted on Being Baptized
John said Jesus was coming with a greater baptism.
I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. (Mt 3:11-12)
Who can baptize with the Holy Spirit? Who can baptize with fire? Who can burn chaff in unquenchable fire? This must be a holy person. This holy person was Jesus.
So, when Jesus came to be baptized by John,
John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. (Mt 3:14-15)
Jesus already was righteous, and fully. He came from heaven that way. He could not confess sin. He could not repent. He had no sin, nothing to repent about. So what was he talking about?
He was talking about fulfilling righteousness on our behalf. He was talking about being baptized for repentance on behalf of sinners.
Holy Suffering for Us
The atonement already was under way at the river Jordan. Jesus, a holy man, the Second Adam, already was carrying your sins. He was being baptized with a baptism of repentance for you. This was part of his fulfilling all righteousness for everyone. He was baptized for the sins of the whole world with a baptism pointing to the cross. (Mk 10:38-39; Lk 12:50)
Jesus was not just a man of the people. He was a holy man and a man of sinners. He did not just associate with people. He took the place of sinners.
Jesus’ suffering is special because he suffered innocently. None of us do that. When we suffer, it is less than we deserve. I am a farmer. I am under the curse of the ground because of my sin. I fight weeds. (Gn 3:17-18) My income tax Schedule F shows that I spend more on herbicides than on fertilizers, more even than on land, more than on anything else on the farm. This is the consequence of my sin, but God in his mercy does let me farm. I do get a crop. I suffer less than I deserve. Jesus suffered without deserving any of it.
Jesus’ suffering is special because he suffered on our behalf, in our place. We sinners are too selfish to do anything like that, and our blameworthy, guilty suffering would do no one else any good. We can’t even do ourselves any good by sorrowing or grieving. “The sorrow of the world produces death.” (2 Cor 7:10 NKJV) “Worldly grief produces death.” (2 Cor 7:10 ESV)
We sinners are too proud to confess and repent. The humility of Jesus is that he confessed and repented for us without himself deserving condemnation. Then he presented his confession and repentance to the Father, and the Father credited us with these merits of Christ. Christ doesn’t keep even these merits for himself, but gives his suffering life away, as a ransom for the world.


  1. A study long ago I found this interesting about childbirth. (NASB) “Will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth” or (NIV) “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;” (KJV) “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; (ESV) “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;” and (NAB) "I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing;”

    While I like your definition of the state of affairs before the fall, beauteous, could the question still be asked, “Would woman have had some labor pains if she would have experienced the birth process prior to the fall”? While it is somewhat a moot point, since the scriptures are silent concerning any birth of a child prior to Cain, it begs an explanation to your point, To Eve, He Said, In pain you shall bring forth children. Gn 3:16)

    Maybe the answer lies in a definition of pain, as used in your context or maybe the conclusion that woman would not have suffered any pain in child birth prior to the fall. Your thoughts.

  2. While I have not given a lot of thought to that question as applied to the statement made to Eve, because I am a farmer, I have often thought of the parallel question for the statement made to Adam. Were there no weeds such as kochia, Canada thistle, pigeon grass (aka green foxtail), or leafy spurge prior to the Fall. Or did those species exist, but they had not turned noxious, just as Adam and Eve existed in a holy state, and had not yet turned sinful. With those questions on my mind, I would like to think that, as I read Scripture, if a text answered any of those questions, I would have noticed, but it often happens that I read right past an answer to something and don't recognize it until later. So far as I know, however, no text of Scripture answers the questions either for the statement made to Adam or the statement made to Eve. So, as curious as I am about it, I have refrained so far from drawing any conclusions.

  3. That’s fair enough, however in passing; I believe that if any question could be answered it would be yours. Because I’m a city dweller maybe my thought process is faulty when it comes to “things of the mind”. Your question could be explained, at least partially, from a scientific standpoint where mine is merely speculation with no possible solution. If there were fossil records that predated the birth of man, which I believe, and evidence shows the markings of thistles and weeds in those fossils that would at least answer the question of “weeds” prior to the fall. Might not be able to answer your second question dealing with their toxicity, but you get further to a solution than I do. Maybe I need to move to the country and ponder these things more closely. Had a friend who got his doctorate and returned to the family farm to help out. I thought it was a waste of education; he said it gave him something to think about while he was on the tractor all day. Farmers 1, City Dwellers 0

  4. A painless Paradise? It is interesting that several of the translations of God's pronouncement of consequences to the newly fallen Eve, as listed above, seemingly refer to an intensification or multiplication of something or other.

    In a sense, the man of the Garden gives "birth" to the woman, albeit through means of a divine surgical intervention.

    But what do we find? The procedure entails Adam's submission to a "deep sleep." We must bow to God's silence, as to its anesthetic necessity (if any).

  5. Thank you, Doctor, for your comment. I appreciate its substance not only for the aspect of linguistics but for the aspect of medical science.

    Both you and Aurelius have commented on multiplication or intensificaton. So I have done some looking into the question linguistically.

    I have some of Luther's lectures on Genesis. Although he does not go down in history as a linguist, he did translate the Bible into German, and even his opponents allow that linguistically his work was creditable and workmanlike. So, not reading Hebrew myself, and having Luther's work, it's a place I can go.

    He says, on v. 3:16, "Moreover, the word [Hebrew omitted because I don't have the font here] appears here; it denotes a quantity which is both extensive and varied. This means that Eve's sorrows, which she would not have had if she had not fallen into sin, are to be great, numerous, and also of various kinds."

    All by itself, that of course does not conclude the question, but it gives me something to start with. I will need to consult additional sources.

    If you come across something and have the time to share it, would you please post here what you find? Thank you.

    May the Lord bless you this Ash Wednesday.