Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Volunteer for Humiliation

In the last two postings we have seen that the gospel is the Gospel of the Kingdom, and that Jesus is the King of the Gospel. That is the context of Jesus’ humiliation. The context lets us see that in his humiliation, Jesus was humble.

When a lowly person remains low, that is not a humiliation. When an exalted person is forcibly brought low, that is a humiliation, but the person is not necessarily humble. He is humiliated by force, not by his own humility.

Jesus’ humility can be seen in this:
  • As King of the Gospel, Jesus should be exalted, but Jesus was humiliated.
  • Jesus’ humiliation was voluntary. His own humility brought on his humiliation.
In this posting, we consider Jesus as a volunteer for humiliation. In further postings, we will look at the humiliation itself.

A Volunteer, not a Victim

Before we look at Jesus’ humiliation, we need to realize that he was not a victim. Jesus was humiliated because he volunteered to be humiliated. No one forced it on him.

He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Eph 2:8)

Jesus knew that he was going to be humiliated.

He began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him.” (Mk 10:32-34)

When Jesus was arrested, one of his disciples tried to prevent the humiliation. Jesus rebuked him because he wanted to fulfill the Scriptures.

One of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. … Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled?’” (Mt 26:51-54)

Jesus said no one was taking his life from him, but he was laying it down.

I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. (Jn 10:17-18)

Obeying His Father’s Commandment

Some object to saying that Jesus volunteered. They point out that the Father gave Jesus a commandment to lay down his life, so he was not a volunteer.

This is a half truth. The part about the command of the Father is true. Above I quoted John 10:17-18, but not completely. I left out the last part of verse 18. The whole verse says:

No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father. (Jn 10:18)

True enough. The Father charged Jesus to lay down his life. The command does not prevent Jesus from being a volunteer. The text still says, “I lay it down of my own accord.” The Father commands, and Jesus accords.

What is Freedom?

Sinners view commandments as enslaving. We feel that being told what to do is oppressive. When we consider whether a commandment from the Father made Jesus a victim rather than a volunteer, we have to remember: Jesus was not a sinner. His view would not be like ours. For Jesus, to obey the commandments of his Father is freedom, not victimhood.

Jesus knows what freedom and slavery are. On our own, we do not.

They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. (John 8:33-34)

When they said, we have never been enslaved to anyone, they left out a few things.
  • The enslavement of the Hebrews in Egypt.
  • Seven cycles of enslavement of Israel to the Philistines in the book of Judges.
  • The Babylonian Captivity of Israel.
  • Their enslavement to the Roman Empire at the very moment when they denied ever being anyone’s slave.

We are like them. We leave out that we are slaves to the Devil, the World, and the Sinful Self. We like it this way. By nature we have no understanding of freedom, no capacity for it, and no desire for it. We are like Israel after the Exodus. They looked back at Egypt and hankered for it. We also hanker for the World.

In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. (Gal 4:3)

Two Adams and their Wills

Adam was created with a free will. He decided to sin, and that was the last decision he made. After that, his will was in bondage to sin. He no longer had the power to choose Christ.

Jesus is the Second Adam. (1 Cor 15:45-49 ; Rm 5:12-21) He descended from Mary, but not from Joseph. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He was born without sin. Like the first Adam before his fall into sin, Jesus, the Second Adam, had free will. Unlike the first Adam, he retained his freedom. He retained it by obeying his Father’s commandment.

Jesus was free, and he was the only man on earth who was free since the fall. He was free to obey his Father, which no son of Adam could do. In this freedom, Jesus volunteered to be humiliated by obeying his Father’s command to take on himself the sins of the whole world.

1 comment:

  1. You really hit the nail on head here TR. I always thought that humility was as you say “making yourself low” and that was my perception of what most evangelistic churches would have you believe. Fortunately I heard something a few years ago that really helped me in my struggle. Don’t know who said it but I believe it. “True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” I think the perfect example can be found in the person and work of Christ. And as you point out he did it willingly. Awesome!