“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”
Stand in awe as you consider that name: Our Lord Jesus Christ!
He is Jesus, the Savior, the only Name under heaven whereby we can be saved.
He is Christ, the eternally anointed One, Who is ordained of God and qualified by the Holy Spirit to be Jesus, the Savior of His people.
He is Lord as He stands eternally before the face of God. See Him as He describes Himself to us inProverbs 8:30, “Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” See Him as the disciples did when they beheld His mighty works and cried out, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Or as Thomas saw and worshipped the resurrected Lord, saying, “My Lord and my God!” But above all see Him with an eye of faith as exalted Lord to Whom is entrusted all power in heaven and on earth as Lord of lords and King of kings.
Then confess as you bow before Him in deepest humility and fear: “Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
He became poor.
At this time of the year we celebrate our annual Christ Feast (how much better that sounds than Christmas), commemorating the birth of the Savior.
Let us go to Bethlehem in our imagination to visit the lowly home of Mary, the young woman who was engaged to be married to Joseph. One would hardly recognize in this maiden the royal blood of David that flows in her veins. The very fact that she lives in an insignificant city of despised Galilee is sufficient evidence that, along with the dying remnant of the royal house of David, the remembrance of David’s throne lies buried in the dust. One would certainly not look for the most blessed among women so far removed from Judea, so far from the royal city and the temple. Indeed, the glory was departed from Israel. The hope of Israel’s deliverance had all but faded away.
By the amazing providence of God a decree went forth from Caesar Augustus, to which Mary, with Joseph, responded by’ going to Bethlehem to be registered for taxation under the Roman law. There in the city of David Mary found no ready welcome, no reception of any kind, not even as much as a shelter in the hour of her great need. There was no hospital, no layette prepared for the Child, no royal bed, no robe. Jesus was born in abject poverty as the poorest of the poor. The shepherds found Him wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger in a cow barn. This was a plain indication of what His life would be. He never owned a parcel of ground or a roof over His head. His food and clothing and sandals were donated. He could say in all honesty, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” He experienced the day when these donated garments were roughly torn from Him and His naked body hung exposed on the cross. He watched while greedy soldiers gambled for His cloak. His last resting place was a borrowed grave. Consider our many possessions and even luxuries, for even the poorest among us has so much more than our Lord ever could claim as His own.
That is one aspect of His poverty. Another aspect, which we have already anticipated, was that He came unto His own and His own received Him not. Israel’s spiritual life was at a very low ebb. The priesthood was corrupted; the temple worship was for the most part a dead formality. The teachings of the scribes served only to deceive the unwary. Even the awakening caused by the preaching of John the Baptist had left most of the people coldly indifferent. The glad tidings which the masses were looking for was the announcement of a mighty hero who would crush the power of Caesar and restore the earthly kingdom, of David. Therefore Jesus was hated before He ever saw the light of day. His parents had to flee for His life before He could care for Himself. Was it ever any different? He remained a stranger to His brethren and an alien in His mother’s house. His own disciples failed to understand. Him and were often offended by Him. He was despised, rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Every one hid his face from Him and gave Him over to His loneliness. He was taken prisoner, condemned as the worst of criminals, beaten, spit upon, crucified. Do not fail to note that we did that to Him.
The divine reason for all this was that He came into the flesh to surrender Himself as friend-servant of God to the divine wrath of God against sin. Christ became like us in all the weakness of sinful flesh; only the element of sin was excluded. We confess with trembling, that He became sin, the very embodiment of the sin of His people. All their sins were charged to His account. All His life the curse of God rested on Him, the Righteous One in God’s sight! None of us can imagine what that meant for our Savior, that all His life long and every step of the way He knew that the wrath of God would come upon Him in an ever-increasing measure until He entered into torments of hell on the cross. Every moment He deliberately and obediently walked the way that led to that final hour when, in the three hours of darkness, all the waves and billows of God’s wrath would overwhelm His soul in anguish of isolation and separation from God’s favor.
Whisper the confession: For our sakes! Shame floods our souls as our sins arise before our consciousness to testify against us. OUR sins, OUR guilt was laid upon Him. Our curse He bore. Our wrath swept over Him until He had .borne it all away. The judgment that rested upon me and still stings in my conscience He took upon Himself to deliver me from it. What a marvel of love, of mercy and compassion, that He suffered for our sins even while we were still enemies. All eternity will not be too long to give praise to our God for that great sacrifice: He became poor for our sakes!
Our amazement only increases as our text reminds us, that “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor.” This does not mean, as is sometimes taught, that Jesus had been rich and laid off all those riches to become poor. Scripture does not say that. Nor is it true. “Though he was rich,” means that, even while He retained His riches, He became poor. He was rich, yet He was poor. That is the paradox. That is also the wonder of our salvation. Jesus is God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, eternally and inseparably one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Who can describe those incomparable riches that Jesus possessed even when He was poor? Can we by searching find out God? Shall we venture to stammer a bit about those riches? The Son of God is Good. He is Light and Truth. Holy and Righteous. Love and Mercy, full of compassion and long-suffering. He is almighty, eternal, omnipresent, unchangeably perfect. He was all that even while He tabernacled in the flesh, ever dwelling in the bosom of the Father, in the intimate fellowship of eternal covenant life. Here is where the mystery of our salvation reaches its full dimension. Jesus never ceased at any time to be God. The Son of God formed His owe nature, body and soul, in the womb of virgin Mary. God lay in swaddling clothes, drank at His mother’s breast, grew up as a child among His brothers and sisters, and increased in wisdom and stature, obedient to His parents. God walked among us, talked with us, bore our weaknesses, and finally died our death and was among the dead of all ages in His grave. He preached and performed miracles. He allowed Himself to be hated and cast out. He surrendered Himself to His enemies, allowed Himself to be bound, led away like a criminal, tried with cruel injustice, condemned and crucified as one not worthy to live among the inhabitants of this world. Imagine that, with all its implications! He stretched out His arms to be nailed to the cross, He bore the reproach of His mockers, He committed Himself to torments of hell. He did all this for our sakes, for your transgressions and mine, that He might reconcile us to God and merit for us eternal fellowship with Him in glory!
“Ye know. . . .”
Yes we know our Lord Jesus Christ, and we also know His grace. We know Him intellectually, because it has been our privilege to be instructed from His holy Word at home, at school, and in the church from our earliest infancy. We know our Savior also experientially, for we know Him by a living faith which unites us in living fellowship with Him, whereby we confess: “Our Lord, Jesus, the Christ.”
We know our Lord’s’ grace, His adorable splendor as the eternal Son of God, Who dwells in the bosom of the Father eternally. We know the Son as the revelation of the Godhead, as He tabernacled among us in the flesh and as He reveals the Father to us in the Holy Scriptures. In eager anticipation we look forward to the day when we shall see Him face to face as the full and complete revelation of God. Through Him we shall see the Father and have eternal fellowship with Him. That is sufficient to fill our hearts with eager longing.
We know His grace as God’s favorable attitude toward us in love. God laid His Son upon the altar of the cross and plunged the knife of His wrath into His heart. The Son, likewise, willingly surrendered Himself to that divine wrath until He had borne it all away. He gave His life for those given to Him of the Father. Wonder of wonders, we are numbered among those for whom He bore His poverty even unto the isolation of hell! We stand at the cross with shame and contrition.
We know the gifts of His grace. We have a risen Savior, to Whom is entrusted all the affairs of history and of our daily lives, to direct all things to the coming of His kingdom and our salvation. We have an Intercessor with the Father, through Whom the Father bestows every-blessing of salvation upon us. We become rich, rich in Christ Jesus, as a reward of His poverty. For it is through His poverty that we become rich. We who deserve everlasting hell in torments of wrath against our sins, become sons of God with the right to eternal life. Wondrous mercy! Boundless grace! For we are by nature uglier and more abominable than the cow barn in which He was born, yet He makes our hearts His dwelling place. He renews us as temples of the Holy Spirit, saints in Christ, preparing us for our own place in His glory.
Thanks be to God for His unspeakable Gift! May our Christ Feast be an expression of that thanks in love to God. We can best do, that by extending a word of comfort to the weary, a hand of mercy to the distressed, a token of love to the lonely and aged. Our love to God expressed in love to His children finds a response of love in their hearts, whereby God is praised and glorified.