During congregational worship on the Lord’s Day at Grace and Truth Community Church, we regularly join together in reciting portions of the catechism that Charles Spurgeon developed for his congregation.
While preparing for our time together in the Lord’s Supper today, we considered question 26: In what way was Christ humiliated? The answer of the catechism is:
A. Christ’s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.
In humbling himself, Jesus did not cease to be God. That, in fact, is what is so amazingly humble. Sinful man is always concerned about his own reputation. Everything in us wants to put our best foot forward. We want to be seen for our strengths, not our weaknesses. Christ is so different. It the OT, no man could look upon God because of his holiness. How amazing is it that God would present himself in such a way that someone would see God and mistake him for just another “Joe”!
Ultimately, Jesus’ humiliation was for our salvation. He was born in our flesh, was made like us, lived under God’s law. Yet, not like us, he did so perfectly with whole-hearted obedience to the Father. Yet, he was cursed for our violation of God’s law. What he endured, we had coming; the wrath of God, the curse of the cross, and the forsakenness of death.
The writer of Hebrews puts it this way:
“But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (Heb. 2:9)
Paul speaks of the humiliation of Jesus this way:
“who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but 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.” (Phil. 2:6-9)
The Latin word that our English word ‘humiliation’ derives from is humilis, which means ‘low to the ground’ (see Alexander Whyte, An Exposition of the Shorter Catechism, p. 93). In a similar way, this catechism answer has been compared to a walk down a staircase, each phrase emphasizing the humble descent of the Son of God. With that in mind, consider this poem to both summarize and personalize this truth of the condescending grace of God found in the Son.
“O long and dark the stairs I trod
With trembling feet to find my God
Gaining a foothold bit by bit,
Then slipping back and losing it.
Never progressing; striving still
With weakening grasp and faltering will,
Bleeding to climb to God, while he
Serenely smiled, unnoting me.
Then came a certain time when I
Loosened my hold and fell thereby;
Down to the lowest step my fall,
As if I had not climbed at all.
Now when I lay despairing there,
Listen…a footfall on the stair,
On the same stair where I afraid,
Faltered and fell and lay dismayed.
And lo, when hope had ceased to be,
My God came down the stairs to me.”
– anonymous, quoted in John MacArthur, Romans 1-8, p. xiii.