“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” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
We have, in this lovely little verse, one of the many incidental proofs, in which the scriptures abound, of the deity of our Lord Jesus. It contains no formal statement of that fundamental truth, for that is clearly not the object of the passage, still it does declare it in the words “though He was rich,” a very distinct allusion to the glory He had with the Father before the world was. Time was when He was not rich; and, may we not ask when was that?
Let us briefly trace His life when here.
First, His birth was evidently in circumstances of poverty. Though “born King of the Jews,” His birthplace was a manger, and the appointed offering made by His parents on the occasion of His being presented to the Lord, was a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons—a small offering indeed, and indicative of anything but wealth on their part.
Again, when engaged in His public service He said to the scribe who volunteered his devotedness, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has not where to lay His head” (Matt. 8:20). Such was the whole path of Jesus here below. Could we say He was rich here? Never! When asked for tribute money He instructed Peter to catch a fish and find in its mouth the exact amount required for Himself and Peter (Matt. 17:27). That is, He had not the money in hand. Again, when pursuing what is called His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, He bade His disciples go before Him into a certain village, where they should find an ass tied. This they were to bring to Him; and, should the owner question their conduct, they were to say simply that the Lord had need of him. No bargain was to be struck, nor money offered as hire. The Creator, and such He was, though in circumstances of poverty in His own creation, had the prior claim, and the owner yielded thereto, allowing the disciples to fulfil their mission. Yet what a contradiction—the Creator in poverty!
Finally, when death had taken place, His body was laid in Joseph’s tomb. “He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death.” God had pre-arranged this new tomb for the body of our blessed Lord, just as He had inclined the heart of the owner of the ass to surrender that animal on His demand.
Now, each of these incidents goes to show the constant poverty of Jesus, nor can one instance be found of His having handled money that belonged, as it were, to Himself. Judas carries the bag.
If, then, He was poor during the entire period of His gracious sojourn below, the question arises, When was He rich? Clearly before He came here. Then He must have pre-existed His incarnation? Certainly. But pre-existence in wealth and glory, in Sonship and creatorial power, necessitates Deity. Certainly. Therefore Jesus was God, rich and glorious, and became man, poor, humble, and sinless! Yea, “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us … full of grace and truth.” And, notice, His self-impoverishment was, “that ye … might be rich.”
Ah! there is the charm for us, in His mighty stoop of self-surrender. He had our eternal wealth before His heart in His deep impoverishment. The point of His utmost poverty when alone in absolute solitude, bearing God’s judgment against our sin during those hours of impenetrable darkness—that point procured our everlasting blessing. He was made sin for us … that we might become the righteousness of God in Him—blessed Saviour! And now the eye can turn to the glory, whither He has gone, freighted with wondrous spoil, and crowned with honour, deserved and welcome. Nor is there a voice in those righteous courts which does not acknowledge His worthiness to receive, in the fullest way, all the dignities which He refused on earth. “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain,” resounds the heavenly chorus, “to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Rev. 5:12). Yes, sevenfold honours crown His brow, and beaming praises celebrate His fame.
“Rich in glory, Thou didst stoop,
Thence is all Thy people’s hope;
Thou wast poor, that we might be
Rich in glory, Lord, with Thee.”