Jesus is true God and true man. As such, he reveals authentic humanity and authentic deity. Want to know about man? Go to Jesus. Want to know about God? Go to Jesus. The multi-faceted mission of Jesus included this crucial revelatory dimension. He came to explain God.
In Jesus God comes walking, speaking, touching, teaching, serving, dying, and rising. The wonderful collision of creature and Creator, this is the Christ event. What you see in Christ’s character is fundamentally true of God the Father. This is rich Christmas theology. A crucial chapter in God’s autobiography is written at the birth of Jesus. The title could very well be “The Humble God.”
In this post we discuss the connection of Christ’s humility to the Father’s humble nature. I believe we will find the old adage “like father like son” true of God.
The Son’s Revelation of the Humble Father
There are a number of texts we could look at to begin this discussion. I have chosen a brilliant passage from the book of Hebrews. The author clearly holds a high christology.
“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3).
The language is magnificent. Paul Ellingworth in his NIGCT commentary states, “In the present verse, ‘exact imprint of his nature’ (χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ) reinforces ‘radiance of glory’ (ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης) in describing the essential unity and exact resemblance between God and his Son…In the present verse, God’s ‘nature’ (ὑπόστασις) is his essential being, ‘the reality of God.'”
The Son is a true representation of the Father as he shares an identical nature with him. It follows that the character/nature of the Son is always consistent with the Father. The second text comes from the book of Matthew.
“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matt 11:27, cf Lk 10:22).
The Son holds exclusive knowledge of and access to the Father. It is grace that grant others that access and knowledge. The mission of the Son aims to make both a reality in the lives of sinful man. The text continues with an invitation to God and a revelation of his character. Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28-29).”
John Nolland in his commentary on Matthew makes some insightful observations. “Matthew 11:25–27 has dealt with both the revealing and the concealing activity of the Father and the Son. Where the failure of response in vv. 20–24 corresponds to the concealing activity, the fresh invitation in vv. 28–30 is probably intended to correspond to the revealing activity.” When Jesus is talking about his humble heart he is revealing the Father’s heart as well. He is doing exactly what he said he came to do in the previous verses.
Nolland goes on to discuss the significance of humility in this revelatory statement. “Moderation and other-centredness fit the context in Mt. 11:29. Matthew’s interest in Jesus as gentle (πραΰς) is reflected in his use in a fulfillment citation in Mt. 21:4–5 of Zc. 9:9 with its identification of the coming king as gentle (πραΰς). Matthew does not use humility (ταπεινός) elsewhere. The word normally designates a person who is in or has been reduced to a lowly position. But like gentle (πραΰς), it also has an ethical use. An ethical use is signalled here by the addition of τῇ καρδίᾳ (‘in heart’), which performs much the same role as τῷ πνεύματι (‘in spirit’) in Mt. 5:3. The one who is ταπεινός τῇ καρδία is unassuming and demonstrates humility.”
Nolland’s discussion on the original languages is important as this verse explicitly ties humility to the character of Christ. Theologically the text is significant as it draws an exegetical and contextual link between the Son’s humility and the Father’s character.
I end this post with a quote by Athan Smith. Note particularly the language of the Triune God entering human existence through the mediation of the Son. In the Son we do indeed see the Trinity.
“There and then, before creation, it was decided that the Son would cross every chasm between God and humanity and establish a real and abiding relationship—union. He was predestined to be the mediator, the one in and through whom the very life of the Triune God would enter human existence and human existence would be lifted up to share in the Trinitarian life. The gospel is the good news that this stunning plan of the Triune God has now become eternal fact in Jesus Christ. In his incarnate life, death, resurrection and ascension, he laid hold of the human race, took us down in his death, recreated us in his resurrection, and lifted us up into the embrace of the Father in his ascension.”