Awarded the lowest place, and “set at nought” by man, God has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of JESUS every knee should bow, and every tongue confess that HE IS LORD. In estimating the glory of the “Man Christ Jesus,” how different was man from God; how infinitely low was man’s estimation—how high was God’s. Do we not learn, how utterly perverted has man’s appreciation of that which bears the stamp and sanction of God, become by sin? If we look at the path of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth, and see in Him all that was perfect as a man, true gentleness and meekness toward others, true love and grace likewise, blended with an uncompromising decision for the truth of God, a maintenance of principle when that principle brought Him into direct conflict with human prejudices and opinions, a “setting His face like a flint” in the support of all that was divine, a bold exposure of Pharisaic pride, self-righteousness, and self-exaltation; a confession of the truth, in short, which, though productive of His death (for—in a world of apostasy from God, death could be His only fate—albeit in another sense it was the fruit of His love—for He “laid down His life”), yet marked Him out as the perfect man, the beautiful embodiment of all that truly adorns humanity, the personification of virtue and moral excellence. Should we not hang our heads with confusion of face and shame, when we remember that this blessed One was refused, rejected, and crucified? Alas! such is the blinding power of sin; such its demoralising, degrading, unhumanising effect, that, when “God was manifest in the flesh,” they “returned hatred for His love;” they “hated him without a cause;” they “took him, and with wicked hands they crucified and slew him.” Truly we may say,
“Where God’s seal the fairest,
They stamped their foulest brand,”
and not, as was once said, “if virtue were only personified, the world would worship at her shrine,” but rather that she has thus appeared, and, because the eye of man had become evil, and his appreciation of virtue vitiated by sin, the world expelled her from its presence. Sad testimony, but not untrue, for, alas, the world knows not its own depraved condition. The heart of man is “deceitful above all things,” and therefore, by deceit, persuades man that he is not “desperately wicked.” Yet, what other proof of his desperate wickedness is needed than the death of this God-man?
“If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin,” said the Lord Jesus, as though the sin of a Cain, of an antediluvian world, of a Babel, of a Sodom and Gomorrah, of a Tyre and Sidon, of a Pharaoh, of a Jeroboam, or of a Ahab, were not to be placed in the same scale, or to be measured in the same measure; as though every previous act of transgression, disobedience, and blasphemy were now completely eclipsed. “Now,” says He, “they have no cloak for their sin.” His rejection was the sin of sins—the crowning sin, yea, the damning sin! Bad as it was to “thrust aside” a Moses, “treat shamefully” a Jeremiah, or “slay” a Zechariah “between the temple and the altar,” what shall we say of that act whereby the Son of God is disallowed and murdered?
But let us trace His path, and notice how fair God’s seal set upon Him, how God anointed Him with the Holy Ghost, how He, as man on earth, was yet the supreme delight of heaven. We read, at the time of His birth, of a multitude of the heavenly host surrounding the angel by whom the glad tidings of a Saviour born that day in Bethlehem were announced to the shepherds, praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good pleasure in men.” Sweet, and rich, and wondrous were their praises; more wondrous far than when, on an earlier day, that same angel host chanted the birth of creation. More sweet were the praises of heaven on this wondrous night, more auspicious was the introduction of the Son of Man by this angel choir. Not less significant was the conduct of the wise men from the east when they, led by His star, came to worship the “King of the Jews,” and, when they found Him, presented to Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Thus we see angels, and stars, and shepherds, and wise men, all interested in the advent of this wondrous Man.
Thirty years elapsed, and history is almost silent, but two facts can be gathered concerning Him from its page; one that “His Father’s business” was the foremost thought of His soul, and that, too, whilst in no wise forgetful of the claims of His parents; and also, that His custom was to read the scriptures in the synagogue of Nazareth, where He had been brought up (see Luke 2:49 and 4:16). Meagre though this detail may be, it is nevertheless grateful to the heart; it is enough to show His character, it may be but the barest outline, still the course of the stream is learned from the feather or straw on its bosom, and these two simple yet exquisite traces of His early life make known to us the bent and purpose of His hidden days. “I must be about my father’s business,” are words which let out the deep spring and seat of that life which was so shortly to display itself in a manner unknown hitherto, and to claim from human tongues the unreserved confession that He was the Son of God.
But at the close of that period, we find Him associating Himself with those of His nation who owned the testimony of the Baptist, and coming to be baptised of John in Jordan. John, conscious of His glory, sought the lower place, but was met by the memorable response of perfect obedience—“thus it becomes us to fulfil all righteousness; and he suffered him.” What could be lowlier or lovelier! what condescension! what a gracious identification with the faithful of Israel! what perfect submission—and all was seen by God. “And straightway coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon Him, and there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” Glorious recognition of the obedient One; widely different estimate from that of man. On whom, it may be asked, had heaven ever thus smiled or placed its bright and living seal? But of this One, God could say, “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” In this respect He was therefore peculiar. He engaged the attention of heaven, and drew therefrom its salutation. To none of the children of men had this extraordinary seal of approbation been awarded; but “God gave not the Spirit by measure to him.” And yet, extraordinary as such an event may be, this was not its only occasion; for when, on the mount of transfiguration, accompanied by Moses and Elias, and surrounded by the cloud of brightness, we find the same voice saluting Him, and using words almost similar—“This is my beloved Son, hear him;” or, as reported by one of the favoured eye-witnesses, “He received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!” (2 Peter 1:17). Such distinctions mark Him off as peculiar and alone. As a man on earth, He was heaven-honoured as none other. He stands in contrast with all, even as He could say, “The Son of man which is in heaven.” It is not that men had never been the direct objects of special heavenly communications. We find God talking with Adam, and Noah, and Abraham, and others. We find Elijah carried up to heaven in a chariot of fire; and Stephen, in a much later day, seeing the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God, but no voice of commendation sounded in his ears, even though there awaited him the honour of being the first Christian martyr. No, all is contrast. There was that in the case of the Son of man which distinguished Him from all, and rendered evident His claim and title to divinity.
“Miracles and wonders and signs” approved Him—and by them, God bare Him witness. His own words commended Him, and He was the truth. Moses wrote of Him: John ran before and introduced Him. Diseases fled at His touch or His word of command. Death gave way to life in His presence, and demons deserted their victims at His word. He was kind, considerate, and un-upbraiding; at the service of all, and graciously accessible to all; faithful, but not unkind; sovereign, but not despotic; almighty, but almighty in blessing. True to God, and unbendingly faithful to His interests on earth, He suffered and became “obedient unto death,” for death lay necessarily in His path of obedience, and that, “the death of the cross,” and now “God has highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name.” It was His clue. He never forfeited the glory that was natural to Him; and, as water ascends to its own level, so now God re-instates Him in His own proper glory, with the addition of that which He has acquired as the wonderful overcomer. Such was the burden of His prayer in John 17, “Father, the hour is come, glorify thy Son;” and again, “I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do; and now, O Father, glorify me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” This prayer has been fully answered, and the blessed One has gone on high. He has been rejected on earth, but accepted in heaven; refused by man, received by God, even as He speaks from the glory, “I am set down with my Father on his throne.”
A passage in Hebrews 12 bears, with beauteous effect, on this point. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Here, Jesus is presented to us as the man of faith, the author and accomplisher of the path of dependence on God and testimony for Him, in whom there was no failure, no mistake, no coming short of the will of God, there has been in others who walked in the same path—the Enochs and Noahs and Abrahams, and the vast cloud of witnesses to the power and reality of faith; of these, though the world was not worthy of them, it could not be said they did not fail. But hence the eye is to turn from each of them to Jesus, and see One who began and completed that path without a single failure. And He, having endured the cross, despising the shame, is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. His race was run; His bright and unfaltering witness was borne, and now, as victor, He is welcomed to the throne of God. Blessed diversity of judgment. If the cross was meted to Him by wicked men, the throne of glory was awarded Him on high; and He deserved that throne. “Wherefore God also has highly exalted Him, and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of JESUS every knee should bow, and every tongue confess that HE IS LORD, to the glory of God the Father.”