JESUS’ GLORIOUS HUMILITY
1. Jesus’ Glory
I’ll be reading from a number of passages tonight...
We are often enamoured by the images of celebrities in impoverished communities. They pull their enormous resources – powerful friends, significant finances, outside perspectives – and they bring it all in to help those in need.
That might be some small picture of what we find in our text for tonight – Almighty God coming to the aid of the needy.
Before we take a closer look at the humble start of Jesus’ life on earth, let’s look for a moment at who Jesus is, outside of His poor carpenter’s son image.
There are many people that believe that Jesus was a really great guy. He taught some really cool things, helped a lot of people who needed help, cared for those less fortunate than he was, just an awesomely great man. He should be remembered and copied as much as possible.
But that’s the end of it, he was just a really, really great guy.
The Bible tells us something very different about Jesus. And the picture that the Bible paints of Jesus ought to blow your mind and leave you staggering.
The book of Revelation is a recorded vision that John has of Jesus. Much of it can be confusing, but the thing to always keep in mind is that it is a vision of Jesus Christ. John describes Him in chapter 1:12-18, saying, “I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.’”
This is just like the images we have of God recorded in the Old Testament.
Isaiah describes his vision of God this way: Isaiah 6:1-5 “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the LORD seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
Ezekiel describes it this way: Ezekiel 1:26-28 “Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown...”
When people get a glimpse of God’s glory, they realise that it can’t be contained – not in a temple built by hands, not by our minds, God’s glory is infinite and mind-blowing.
Sometimes the best way to try and picture it is in imagery from the Psalms like Psalm 97:1-98:9 “The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice...The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the LORD of all the earth...For you, O LORD, are the Most High over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods...Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music...Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.”
He is exalted and lifted up above all gods – above all created things. And this exalted, Almighty, eternal God promised that He would come to us. He would come and save us.
How would He come? In a flaming chariot followed by hosts of angels; a sceptre in one hand and a flaming sword in the other? No, he would be born on this earth, a helpless baby. But then how would He be born? Where would He be born?
Keeping this image of this Mighty God, let’s read our text for tonight.
2. Jesus’ Humility
I love what one commentator said about this event: “If there was ever an opportunity for God to enact His plan with a majestic flourish, it was at Jesus’ birth”.
God had been planning and preparing the world for the arrival of His Son since the world began, right back in Genesis 3:15. And yet, when there could and should have been supernatural fanfare – imagine Jesus being born to the richest, strongest, most powerful king and queen on the planet, and the sky lighting up with lightning bolts in the shape of ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus’; mountains being uprooted and coming to bow before this baby; kings of the earth falling before Him and offering their crowns – and here we have the simple, humble story of the birth of our Saviour and King.
It could be argued there was even more fanfare over John the Baptist’s birth. John’s Dad was at least a priest; Jesus’ was a carpenter. When Elizabeth fell pregnant the whole region was talking about it and marvelling at the gracious hand of God; while if anyone spoke about Mary’s pregnancy it was with derision. The prophecy of John’s birth was given by Gabriel in the temple; while Gabriel’s message to Mary might have been in her backyard.
Even when Jesus was born, and God decided to make this known and begin to celebrate this historic event with the world – who did He send His messengers to? Who would God tell first?! Rabbis? Priests? Kings? Emperors? No! Shepherds. God wanted them to be the first.
And then Jesus, born alone, away from the eyes of the world, in a stable, is wrapped in cloths and laid in a feeding trough. The contrast between the birth’s commonness and the child’s greatness could not be greater.
I don’t know about you – but I almost want to say, God could have done so much more with this. But even though God is so infinitely glorious and worthy of glory, He chose to identify in the humblest way with those made in his image.
This birth was a fitting backdrop for the life that Jesus was going to lead. He wasn’t ever going to be rich. He wasn’t ever going to have many servants tending to his needs and fancies. He wasn’t ever going to set about to build something permanent here. In fact, later when people are wanting to follow Jesus He turns to them and says, ‘Even foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head’ – meaning, ‘if you want to follow Me, you won’t be able to build something permanent for yourself here either, My home is in another place.’
He lived in poor conditions, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.” He lived a difficult and poor life, and in the end His death was nothing to be envied. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities...He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”
You can read the rest of the story in Isaiah 53, but you know what happened. He was betrayed, beaten, crucified.
This was an incredible humbling of Himself. From the throne room of heaven, enjoying the worship of all of heaven, he came down to the earth that He created – and He chose to be born in a stable to poor parents from the middle of nowhere – an incredible humbling of Himself.
Paul describes it this way: “He made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross.”
3. Jesus’ Purpose: (Glory to God, and Peace to Men)
In all of this, I want you to realise the purpose of Jesus being born. Why was Jesus born? Was it to build a power empire for Himself here? Or was it to try and make His life here as comfortable and exciting as He possibly could? That’s how we often live. But no, that’s not why Jesus was born.
In fact the angels declare why when they said to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”
Jesus came that God might be glorified, and that men might have peace with God. Ephesians 2 speaks about this.
Ephesians 2:13-18 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit”
Jesus came that God might be glorified, and that men might have peace. And that is the same purpose for us being put on this earth – to glorify God with our lives, and to reconcile sinful man to our Holy God. That’s the ministry that we’ve been given.
Jesus’ ultimate purpose was to serve God through obedience, and serve man. He gave up His great glory in heaven to do just that. He humbled Himself for our sakes. All through the stories of Jesus life we see again and again that he came to serve.
Now we, if we would call ourselves Christians, are to follow after Christ – follow after Him in an attitude of humility, in an attitude of service.
It’s true, you won’t get very far in this world with that kind of attitude, it might call you to make certain sacrifices at work or at home that would make your life less ‘spectacular’ than your neighbours or your workmates.
You won’t get very far in this world with that kind of attitude but you will get very far in God’s kingdom. Jesus said to those disciples: “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Again, just before the Passover Feast when Jesus would be crucified, He gathered His faithful followers together for a meal; and He took a towel, wrapped it around His waist, and the Creator of the Universe washed the dirty feet of those who aren’t worthy even to wash His. This was very confusing for the disciples, but “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord”, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
Do you find that you struggle with a desire for greater things – a nicer car, a bigger home, a better cellphone, a higher position at work?
This week I’d like you to keep in mind God’s plan and purpose for your life: To serve and glorify Him, and to serve others. To do this will require an attitude of complete humility, as Jesus had.
Will you decide to ask God to teach you to be humble before Him and others? Are you willing for God to break whatever ambitious thoughts and dreams you have that aren’t from Him or pleasing to Him? God loves a heart like that, and will use and bless the man or woman who chooses the humble, obedient way of Jesus.
I want Jesus’ glorious humility.
Let’s pray together.