The Ultimate Comedown

mud feet

I don’t like to humble myself.

I love myself too much.  That’s why I so need the Lord’s grace to serve and lay down my life for others.  Apart from the Spirit’s power, I would only seek to be admired and served, to live for my own comfort and pleasure.   I’d never associate with the lowly nor look to the interests of others.

How I need to contemplate the immeasurable humility of Jesus.

Before Jesus took on flesh he existed as God from all eternity, infinite in glory, power and majesty.  All he had to do was give the word and the host of heaven would fly to do his will.  Myriads and myriads of angels worshiped and served him.  He had no needs, existing in perfect joyous fellowship with his Father and the Holy Spirit.

But Jesus “emptied himself” of his glory and took on a human nature.  This self-humbling was the ultimate comedown.

For Jesus to tread the mud of this earth and suffer hunger and weakness and associate with sinners was a greater humiliation than if I became a cockroach, for Jesus is infinitely exalted above his creation, and I am certainly not infinitely exalted above cockroaches.  Even the most radiant angels in heaven are only finite creatures, separated by an infinite chasm from the unfathomable greatness and glory of Jesus.  Angels are closer to garden slugs in their being than they are to God.  The highest order of creatures, seraphim, must cover their faces with their wings because they cannot bear the sight of Jesus’ blazing holiness.

Never has there been so deep a humiliation as Christ’s incarnation.  But on the cross his humiliation reached incalculable depths when he “became sin” in God’s sight.  Jesus, the sinless One, in bearing our crimes, became the most abhorrent, despicable thing that exists in his Father’s eyes.

And he did all this to purchase our salvation, to bring us to God, and clothe us with his own beauty.

That’s what Christmas is all about – the glorious Son of God, willingly embracing infinite humiliation to rescue and exalt vile sinners.

photo by kunkelstein

If I Became a Garden Slug

When you say Incarnation think humiliation.

The Infinite One clothed himself in dust. The Mighty One wrapped himself in weakness.

I don’t like to be humbled.  I want to be honored.  Have you ever been in a meeting and someone says, “I want to honor someone this morning.  I know he wouldn’t want me to say these things about him, but…” and you’re thinking, say my name!  Say my name!”  Sadly I’ve thought that.

Once a number of my friends and I went golfing on a rainy day. I’m not a golfer – I went to hang out with my buddies. I did terribly all day. I think my friends quit keeping my score on the second hole. By the last hole I was exasperated. I said, “I’m going to smash this ball as hard as I can. It’s going the whole way to the hole in one stroke.”

I ratcheted the club back farther and farther, discs in my back popping. Then I swung. The club hummed louder and louder as it cut through the air, finally breaking the sound barrier. Then the head of the club plowed into the turf a full foot in front of the ball, launching a basketball-sized divot into the atmosphere. The powerful torque generated by my aborted swing sent my feet arcing into the air. I hung there suspended between heaven and earth for a full minute, then came crashing down in the wet grass on my back, my arms and legs flailing like a tipped cow. My friends erupted into wild shrieks of laughter, squealing like stuck pigs. “I wish I had a video camera,” one howled, “I’d be $10,000 richer.” Any vestiges of pride, honor and dignity that I had were stripped away in one humiliating moment.  But any humiliation I’ve experienced is nothing compared to Christ’s.

Christ’s humiliation was infinite.

Christ’s humiliation is vastly different from any we experience. When we’re humbled, we really don’t have all that far to fall. If I became a garden slug, it wouldn’t compare to Christ’s humiliation because he was infinitely exalted above all his creation.

Christ’s humiliation was willing.

I don’t gravitate toward humiliation. I don’t wake up saying, “I hope something humiliating happens to me today.” Jesus chose humiliation because it was his Father’s will. In Hebrews 10:7 Jesus says, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.”

The Father’s will was for Jesus to take on flesh and be subject to human parents. The Father’s will was for Jesus to be misunderstood, mocked and rejected. The Father’s will was to crush Jesus (Is 53:10). Jesus delighted in all his Father’s will. He said “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” He “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Php 2.7-8).

Christ took on a human body subject to hunger, thirst, and weariness. He readily embraced the whip, the crown of thorns, the nails, and the wrath of God. He didn’t run the other way like Jonah. He didn’t try to excuse himself like Moses. He didn’t try to protect himself like Peter. He was eager and willing to be humiliated.

I want to imitate Christ.

I want to willingly take on lowly tasks for the Lord. I want to eagerly serve when it’s inconvenient. If Christ willingly humbled himself, I want to willingly humble myself for him.

Originally posted Dec. 19, 2007

Christmas, a Celebration of Humiliation

“A leading researcher on humiliation, Dr. Evelin Lindner, defines humiliation as ‘the enforced lowering of a person or group, a process of subjugation that damages or strips away their pride, honor or dignity.’ Further, humiliation means to be placed, against ones will, in a situation where one is made to feel inferior. ‘One of the defining characteristics of humiliation as a process is that the victim is forced into passivity, acted upon, made helpless.’ Johan Galtung, a leading practitioner, agrees with Lindner that the infliction of humiliation is a profoundly violent psychological act that leaves the victim with a deep wound to the psyche.” (Beyondintractability.org)

Christmas celebrates the humiliation of Christ.

The Incarnation was the humbling of the King of the universe, the stripping away of his honor and dignity. The Creator of all is born a helpless babe. The One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills is born in poverty. The One who directs the stars in their courses is laid in a trough, dependent on the care of his mother and father. The One who sends the rain cries out in hunger and thirst. The King of glory becomes a speck of dust.

No human being has ever been humiliated like Christ. Because Christ is God Most High, his descent was an infinite descent.

A.W. Tozer says, “We must not think of God as highest in an ascending order of beings, starting with the single cell and going on up from the fish to the bird to the animal to man to angel to cherub to God. This would be to grant God eminence, even pre-eminence, but that is not enough; we must grant Him transcendence in the fullest meaning of that word.”

“Forever God stands apart, in light unapproachable. He is as high above an archangel as above a caterpillar, for the gulf that separates the archangel from the caterpillar is but finite, while the gulf between God and the archangel is infinite. The caterpillar and the archangel, though far removed from each other in the scale of created things, are nevertheless one in that they are alike created. They both belong in the category of that-which-is-not-God and are separated from God by infinitude itself.” (A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy)

The infinitely transcendant God becomes lower than the angels. Infinite humiliation.

Jesus’ death was the ultimate humiliation. The Holy One was made to be sin. The Blessed One was made a curse. The Sinless One drank the cup of wrath. The Majestic One hung naked on a cross. The Innocent One died a criminal’s death. The Beautiful One was marred beyond recognition.

The amazing thing about Jesus’ humiliation is that it was voluntary. Christ’s humiliation was not an “enforced lowering of a person”. He was not placed, against his will, in a situation where he was made to feel inferior. He was not a “victim” who was “forced into passivity, acted upon, made helpless.” Jesus “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Php 2:7-8).

The Incarnation was the self-humbling of Christ. Let’s worship the Humble One, the Glorious One, the Exalted One.