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Emptied of Glory and Obedient to Death

by Kevin Drendel

On Good Friday we remember the ultimate sacrifice God made for us. Not only did He empty Himself of His glory to become like us, taking on human flesh, but He was obedient to the law that He established for us – obedient to death – even death on the cross. We shudder at the thought of hanging on a cross, but it’s hard for us to imagine how utterly shameful crucifixion was in the 1stCentury.[1]

This was not just a person, though, this was God who had already shed his glory to become like us and walked in humble obedience to all that He required of us – something that we do not even do ourselves. This man who hung tortuously and shamefully on the cross was also fully God who certainly suffered all the pain and shame that a man and God could possibly feel at the hands of His own creation.

In the article linked at the end of this blog piece, Trevin Wax makes three observations that have stuck with me since I read them:

  • Here he was, nailed to a cross by soldiers whom he created!

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”[2]

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”[3]

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place….”[4]

Imagine God, who made the universe and us, subjecting Himself to the pain and shame of the cross.

  • He was raised up into the sky on beams of wood—from the trees that he made.

“Then God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them’; and it was so.”[5]

“Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food….”[6]

“Burst into song, you mountains,
you forests and all your trees,
for the Lord has redeemed Jacob,
he displays his glory in Israel.”[7]

Imagine God, who made the trees as instruments for our welfare, suffering on a tree used as an instrument of torture.

  • He looked into the eyes of the people who killed him, and he knew their names, their histories, their destinies.

“[E]ven the very hairs on your head are numbered.”[8]

“You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.”[9]

“Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”[10]

This is Almighty God, the Lord of lord, God of gods, Maker of the heavens and the earth. Imagine the pain of looking into the eyes of the persons you formed and loved, knowing circumstances and the outcome of their lives, while hanging on a cross, put there by their hands.

More poignantly, Jesus was punished to death on the cross, not by the insistence of the Romans, but of the Jews, the very people chosen by God to receive His revelation and the focus of His attention.

1 “But now listen, Jacob, my servant,
Israel, whom I have chosen.
This is what the Lord says—
he who made you, who formed you in the womb,
and who will help you:
Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant,
Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.
For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.”[11]

The God who hung on the cross is the same God who spoke thus to Job:

“Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like his?
10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
11 Unleash the fury of your wrath,
look at all who are proud and bring them low,
12 look at all who are proud and humble them,
crush the wicked where they stand.
13 Bury them all in the dust together;
shroud their faces in the grave.
14 Then I myself will admit to you
that your own right hand can save you.”[12]

Our own right hands cannot save us. Only God can save us from ourselves, and He did that by sacrificing Himself at our hands to death on the cross.

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[1] See THE MOST SURPRISING LYRIC IN PHILIPPIANS 2: ‘EVEN TO DEATH ON A CROSS’ by Trevin Wax, published in the Gospel Coalition website online.

[2] Genesis 1:26-28

[3] Genesis 2:15

[4] Acts 17:24-26

[5] Genesis 1:11

[6] Genesis 2:9

[7] Isaiah 44:23

[8] Luke 12:7

[9] Psalm 139:2-3

[10] Psalm 139:16

[11] Isaiah 44:1-3

[12] Job 41:8-14

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