Today we begin with the Second Article of the Apostle’s Creed, specifically Christ’s humiliation and our Redemption from All Enemies.
What do we mean by humiliation? First, humiliation is not identical with the incarnation. We can understand humiliation by illustration. Consider the strongest man you know – someone strong enough to lift the front end of a car or a refrigerator. He possesses great strength, but if he does not use his strength, little children can bind him and render him helpless. This is the way it was with Christ. In his divine nature, Christ always and fully used his divine majesty and power, but in his human nature, he did not always use this power. The humiliation of Christ consists in the nonuse of divine power and majesty that he possessed in his human nature.[i]
Our Lutheran Confessions teach that Christ always had this majesty according to his personal union, and yet abstained from using it in the state of His humiliation. … He exercised this majesty, not always, but when it pleased Him.[ii]
In addition to his suffering, death and burial, the stages of Christ’s humiliation occur during his conception, birth and life. Scripture records that he was born of a woman, under the law in poverty and humility, and that he was obedient to his parents. This shows that Christ’s humiliation was linked with his work of redemption.[iii] [iv]
The entire life of Christ was continuous suffering. He was aware that he bore all our sins and guilt. What he experienced at Gethsemane and Golgotha intensified his suffering until he exclaimed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[v]
We can only understand his suffering through Isaiah, who wrote, “The Lord laid upon him the iniquity of us all,”[vi] for in his conscience Jesus felt all these sins as his own. His physical suffering was no greater than other men crucified, but his heart felt the fierceness of God’s wrath and the torments of hell.[vii] The damned in hell despair, but Christ clings to God and cries, “My God, my God.” Christ died, and the soldiers attest to his death.[viii]
The personal union of Christ’s two natures was not disrupted by the death of his human nature. The soul of Christ was in paradise and the lifeless body in the grave was still the body of the Son of God. The fact that this body did not see corruption shows that it was still in communion with divine nature.[ix]
The death of Christ was a voluntary act on his part. When he gave up his spirit, it was not because of physical exhaustion or any other cause. He died because he wanted to die just at that point.[x]
In this life, we will never understand the depth of Christ’s humiliation, but that should not prevent us from meditating upon these mysteries. For your spiritual benefit, take time tonight to pray about what Christ experienced in his birth, life, suffering and death, and simply allow God’s grace to stir your heart that you may love as deeply as Christ loved. Amen.
[i] Edward W. A. Koehler, A Summary of Christian Doctrine. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House (2006). 147.
[ii] Robert Kolb and Timothy Wengert, The Book of Concord. Minneapolis: Fortress Press (2000). Also see http://bookofconcord.org/fc-ep.php#VIII.%20The%20Person%20of%20Christ.
[iii] Galatians 4:4 and Luke 2:7
[iv] Koehler, 149
[v] Mark 15:34
[vi] Isaiah 53:6
[vii] Koehler, 150
[viii] John 19:32-35
[ix] Koehler, 150