The Earthly Ministry of Christ

Incarnation translates the glory of the invisible God into human terms

One of the main purposes of the incarnation was to translate the glory of the invisible God into human terms that could be readily seen and understood, ‘The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father)’, John 1. 14. ‘No one has ever seen God, the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known’, John 1. 18 ESV. ‘He that hath seen me hath seen the Father’, John 14. 9. This glory was seen to be utterly different from any human concept of glory.

The wise men considered that He should be born in the palace of the reigning royal family in Jerusalem, the centre of the religious and political life of the nation, Matt. 2. 1-2. In fact, He was born in an outside place, in the keeping of an ordinary family, and grew up in a village of the Galilean countryside, far from the centres of religious and political power. The divine glory was revealed in His life, but a glory of a very different order from the glory of this world as perceived by the wisdom of the wise men.

The divine glory was revealed in thirty years of obscurity

The first revelation of the divine glory was thirty years of obscurity, Luke 3. 23. Fame and fortune have no weight in the balances of God. We know He was obedient to His parents and grew in wisdom, Luke 2. 51-52. We can conjecture that He learned Joseph’s trade as a carpenter and supported the family, as there is no further mention of Joseph, Matt. 13. 55. But of that obscure period the voice of the Father from heaven declared, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’, Matt. 3. 17. Unknown to men in general, it is more than sufficient that it was known and well pleasing to God the Father. But one human voice, intimately acquainted with that period, has declared the glory of it for the Lord’s younger half-brother, James, could write, ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory’. Who else could speak thus of his own brother? Jas. 2. 1.

The divine glory revealed in signs of divine power

The next revelation of the divine glory were the visible signs of divine power. The first miracle literally, a sign, was creative, the prerogative of deity, creating wine from water. ‘This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him’, John 2. 11 RSV. It is argued by the world that Jesus without the miracles would be believable. Yes, He would be believable, but only as a man, not as God incarnate. Therefore, the opposite is true. How could we believe in God the Creator, who, standing before blindness, physical deformity and death, could do nothing to bring relief to the sufferers? ‘The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me or believe me for the very works’ sake’, John 14. 10-11.

The revelation of the glory of the divine character

There is also the very important revelation of the glory of the divine character, ‘We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth’, John 1. 14. ‘Grace and truth’, a perfectly balanced character. The Lord gave an inflexible adherence to the truth, even to the point of endangering His own life by attacking the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of the people. He cries out, ‘Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites’, the result is an immediate threat of violence to Him, ‘But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him’, Luke 19. 47. Grace He also displayed in all its fullness, a warm sympathy and kindness towards the underprivileged, even to the point of sacrificing His reputation, ‘And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans (tax-collectors) and sinners’? Matt. 9. 11.

All this glory was revealed despite the limits of a true human nature

All this was lived out within the limitations imposed by a true human nature. He experienced joy, ‘Jesus rejoiced’, Luke 10. 21; and sorrow, ‘Jesus wept’, John 11. 35; He endured hunger, ‘He was afterward an hungred’, Matt. 4. 2; and thirst, ‘I thirst’, John 19. 28. He knew weariness, ‘Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well’, John 4. 6; and tiredness, ‘But as they sailed he fell asleep’, Luke 8. 23. He faced adulation, ‘When Jesus knew … to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone’, John 6. 15; and insult, ‘When they had mocked him’, Mark 15. 20. Yet, not once did He deviate from the path of truth, ‘Which of you convinceth me of sin?’ John 8. 46, or lose the acts of grace that always characterized Him, ‘So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes’, Matt. 20. 34. It was not just that He was without sin, but He possessed positive righteousness, ‘Jesus of Nazareth … who went about doing good’, Acts 10. 38.

The climax of glory: to give His life as a ransom for many

The climax of the Lord’s earthly life was to deal with sin and conquer death on behalf of others. ‘The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’, Matt. 20. 28 RSV. He chose to lay down His life and to take it up again, ‘I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself, I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again’, John 10. 17- 18. He freely chose to go to Jerusalem, knowing it to be His last Passover feast, Luke 18. 31-34. He publicly claimed to be the Messiah by riding into Jerusalem on an ass, Matt. 21. 1-11. He openly taught in the precincts of the Temple making no attempt to avoid the plot of Judas for His arrest, John 13. 27. He clearly claimed Messiahship, even in the face of the false witnesses, and He refused divine intervention, finally yielding up His spirit to the Father in obedient death, Luke 23. 46. This, the path of the Father’s will, was the path of extreme suffering. His human preference was not to pass that way, but personal preference was overruled by obedience to the Father, saying, ‘Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done’, Luke 22. 42.

The fulfillment of the divine glory

Now came the fulfillment of the divine purposes in revealed glory as prophesied in the Old Testament, and as summed up in the words of John the Baptist, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world’, John 1. 29. He was to bear the sin of the world, a sacrifice sufficient to offer salvation to the entire human race. This was the purpose for which He was born into this world, ‘God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons’, Gal. 4. 4-5. His sufferings were beyond our comprehension, ‘for he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin’, 2 Cor. 5. 21, and we cannot penetrate the mystery further than His own words allow, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ Mark 15. 34. But the deed was done and ‘It is finished’ is His own declaration that nothing more was needed to provide salvation for men, John 19. 30.

At the last, the Father intervened and reversed the verdicts of men and raised His Son from the dead. Death itself was conquered, the Lord Jesus Christ was now revealed as both the Soul-saver and the Life-giver.

To be continued


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