4. God Manifestation In The Cross
God And The Cross
There is good reason to understand that in those
wretched hours of crucifixion, God was especially manifested to the
world. There was a matchless, never to be surpassed partnership between
Father and Son on the cross. God was in Christ on the cross,
reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Cor. 5:19). There the Lord Jesus
manifested and declared the Father's Name, His essential character, to
the full (Jn. 12:28; 13:31,32; 17:5,6,26). The Lord's references to
'going to the Father' referred to His coming crucifixion. That was
where the Father was, on the cross. In the very moment of His death the
observing Centurion gasped, twice: " Truly this was the Son
of God" (Mk. 15:40; Lk. 23:46). There was something so evidently Godly
in that death. God was so near.
There are a number of incidental reasons for seeing the
cross as the ultimate declaration of God Himself.
- It is possible to argue that " Jesus of Nazareth, King
of the Jews" written in Hebrew would require the use of words, the
first letters of which created the word YHWH. This is why the Jews
minded it so strongly when the title was put up. Pilate’s retort
“What I have written I have written" may well have been an
oblique reference to ‘I am that I am’. It was his attempt
to have the last laugh with the Jews who had manipulated him into
crucifying a man against whom there was no real charge. It was as if
the Lord suffered as He did with a placard above Him which effectively
said: 'This is Yahweh'. The Name was declared there, as the Lord had
foreseen (Jn. 17:26). The declaration of Yahweh’s Name to Moses
in Ex. 34:6 thus becomes a foretaste of the Lord’s crucifixion.
Some LXX versions render Ex. 34:6 as ‘Yahweh, Yahweh, a man
full of mercy....’. In the crucifixion of the man Christ Jesus
the essence of Yahweh was declared. And we, John says with reference to
the cross, saw that glory,as it were cowering in the rock like Moses, full
of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14 cp. Ex. 34:6 RV).
The Hebrew Inscription Over The Cross
y Jesus- Yeshua
h The Nazarene- Ha’Natzri [cp. “the sect of
‘The Nazarene(s)’, Acts 24:5]
v and King- u’Melek
h of the Jews- Ha’Yehudim
giving the Yahweh Name:
The Lord was crucified for blasphemy; this was the
charge on which He was found guilty at His trial by the Jews, and the
basis upon which they demanded His crucifixion. The Mishnah claims that
this was only possible if someone actually used the Yahweh Name. Sanhedrin
7.5 outlines the protocol for condemning someone for this, in terms
which have accurate correspondence with the Lord’s trial:
“The blasphemer is not guilty until he have expressly uttered the
Name...When the trial is over...the judges stand up and rend their
clothes" (quoted in F.F. Bruce, The Spreading Flame, 1995
ed., p. 53). So when the Lord responded to their question as to His
Messiahship by saying “I am", and went on to appropriate the
Messianic words of Dan. 7:13 and Ps. 110:1 to Himself, He must have
explicitly used the Yahweh Name about Himself. This is why they were so
quick to accuse Him of blasphemy, and why the High Priest rent his
clothes. The Lord died because He declared the Yahweh Name,
unashamedly, knowing that His declaration of it would take Him to the
cross. Our declaration of the essence of Yahweh, by truthfulness,
forgiveness...this may cost us, although maybe not so dearly. Yet we
can be inspired by the Lord’s example. This also explains why, as
suggested above, Pilate tried to have the last laugh over the Jews by
writing the Lord’s ‘crime’ over His body in such a
way which spelt out the name ‘Yahweh’.
- It has been observed that the blood of the Passover
Lamb on the lintels of the doors at the Exodus, three sides of a
square, would have recalled the two repeated letters of
‘Yahweh’ (see above panel), as if His Name was manifested
in the blood of the slain lamb.
- Yahweh laid on the Lord the iniquity of us all, as if
He was present there when the soldiers laid the cross upon the Lord's
shoulders (Is. 53:6).
- Yahweh had prophesied of what He would achieve
through the crucified Christ: “I am, I am: He that blots out thy
trangressions" (Is. 43:25 LXX). He declares His Name as being supremely
demonstrated in His forgiveness of our sins through and in the
- Jehovah-Jireh can mean “Yahweh will show Yah"
(Gen. 22:14), in eloquent prophecy of the crucifixion. There Yahweh was
to be manifested supremely.
- Paul speaks of how the cross of Christ should humble
us, so that no flesh should glory in God’s presence (1 Cor.
1:29); as if God’s presence is found in the cross, before which
we cannot have any form of pride.
- The LXX uses the word translated “propitiation"
in the NT with reference to how God forgave / propitiated for
Israel’s sins for His Name’s sake (Ex. 32:14; Ps. 79:9).
That propitiation was only for the sake of the Lord’s future
death, which would be the propitiation God ultimately accepted. Having
no past or future with Him, Yahweh could act as if His Son’s
death had already occurred. But that death and forgiveness for
“His name’s sake" were one and the same thing. The
Son’s death was the expression of the Father’s Name.
- There was a Jewish tradition that the only time when
the Yahweh Name could be pronounced was by the High Priest, when he
sprinkled the blood of Israel's atonement on the altar. The Name was
expressed in that blood.
- The Red Heifer was to be slain before the face of the
priest, " as he watches" (Num. 19:3-5 NIV), pointing forward to the
Lord's slaughter in the personal presence of the Father.
- It seems reasonable to conclude that Isaac was
offered on or near the hill of Calvary, one of the hills (Heb.) near
Jerusalem, in the ancient “land of Moriah" (cp. 2 Chron. 3:1).
The name given to the place, Yahweh-Yireh, means ‘in this mount I
have seen Yahweh’. The events of the death and resurrection of
the Lord which Isaac’s experience pointed forward to were
therefore the prophesied ‘seeing’ of Yahweh. When Abraham
‘saw the place [of Isaac’s intended sacrifice]
afar off" (Gen. 22:4), there is more to those words than a literal
description. Heb. 11:13 alludes here in saying that Abraham saw
the fulfilment of “the promises" “afar off". The Lord in
Jn. 8:56 says that Abraham saw His day or time [usually a
reference to His sacrifice]. And yet that place of offering was called
by Abraham ‘Jehovah Jireh’, ‘Jehovah will be seen’.
Note the theme of seeing. In some shadowy way, Abraham
understood something of the future sacrifice of the Lord Jesus; and yet
he speaks of it as the time when Yahweh Himself will be
‘seen’, so intense would the manifestation of God be in the
death of His Son.
- Paul saw the cross of Christ as parallel with
“the things of the Spirit of God", the wisdom of God, what eye
has not seen nor ear heard, but what is revealed unto the believer and
not to the world (1 Cor. 1:18,23,24; 2:7-13). The cross of Christ was
the supreme expression of the Spirit of God, and it’s true
meaning is incomprehensible to the world. In the cross, according to
Paul’s allusion back to Isaiah, God bowed the Heavens and came
down. He did wonderful things which we looked not for. The thick
darkness there is to be associated with a theophany presence of God
- The smitten rock was an evident type of the
Lord’s smiting on the cross. And yet in Deuteronomy especially it
is made clear that Israel were to understand Yahweh as their rock. And
yet “that rock was Christ". God Himself said that he would stand
upon the rock as it was smitten- presumably fulfilled by the Angel
standing or hovering above / upon the rock, while Moses smote it. And
yet again it is Yahweh who is described as smiting the rock in Ps. 78
and Is. 48:21. He was with Christ, directly identified with Him, at the
very same time as He ‘smote’ Him.
- Consider the implications of 2 Cor. 5:20: “On
behalf of Christ, as though God were intreating by us: we beseech you
on behalf of Christ: be ye reconciled to God [because] him who knew no
sin he made to be a sin [a sin offering?] on our behalf; that we might
become the righteousness of God in him". Because of the
cross, the atonement which God wrought in Christ’s offering, we
beseech men to be reconciled to God. Appreciating the cross and the
nature of the atonement should be the basis of our appeal to men. And
indeed, such an appeal is God appealing to men and women, in
that there on the cross “God was in Christ, reconciling the world
unto Himself". The blood and spittle covered body of the Lord lifted up
was and is the appeal, the beseeching of God Himself to men.
And this is the message that we are honoured to preach on His behalf;
we preach the appeal of God through the cross.
- “Behold, the hour [s.w. “time"] cometh,
yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and
shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is
with me" (Jn. 16:32). The Lord’s ‘hour’ which was to
come was His death (Jn. 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23,27; 13:1; 17:1; 19:27).
The disciples scattered at the crucifixion, probably they came to see
it and then scattered in fear after the first hour or so. But He was
not left alone; for the Father was with Him there. Just as John began
his Gospel by saying that “the word was with God", with specific
reference to the cross (see The Cross In John’s Gospel
for justification of this).
- Both Jew and Gentile were gathered together against
the Lord (God) and His Christ on the cross (Acts 4:26). Peter thus
makes a connection between the Father and Son on the cross. Those who
reproached Jesus there reproached the Father (Ps. 69:9).
- Zech. 11:13 speaks of Yahweh being priced at thirty
shekels of silver by Israel. But these words are appropriated to the
Lord in His time of betrayal. What men did to Him, they did to the
- There are several NT passages which make an explicit
link between God and Jesus in the context of the salvation of men.
Phrases such as “God our Saviour, Jesus..." are relatively common
in the pastorals (1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3; Tit. 1:3,4; 2:10 cp. 13 and see also
Jude 24; 2 Pet. 1:1). Acts 20:28 even speaks as if God’s blood
was shed on the cross; through ‘His’ blood the church was
purchased; and yet Paul told the very same Ephesian audience that it
was through the blood of Jesus that the church was purchased (Eph.
1:6,7); such was the extent of God manifestation on the cross. These
and many other passages quoted by trinitarians evidently don’t
mean that ‘Jesus = God’ in the way they take them to mean.
But what they are saying is that there was an intense unity
between the Father and Son in the work of salvation achieved on the
- Just before His death, the Saviour spoke of going to
the Father, and coming again in resurrection (Jn. 13:36,37 cp. 14:28;
16:16,17; 17:11). He somehow saw the cross as a being with God, a going
to Him there (‘going to the Father’ in these Johanine
passages is hard to apply to His ascent to Heaven after the
resurrection). Note in passing that when in this context He speaks of us
coming to the Father, He refers to our taking up of His cross, and in
this coming to the essence of God (Jn. 14:6 cp. 4, 13:36).
- The altar " Jehovah-Nissi" connected Yahweh
personally with the pole / standard / ensign of Israel (Ex. 17:15). Yet
nissi is the Hebrew word used for the pole on
which the brass serpent was lifted up, and for the standard pole which
would lift up Christ. Somehow Yahweh Himself was essentially connected
with the cross of Christ. “There is no God else beside; a just
God and a Saviour (Jesus)...look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends
of the earth" (Is. 45:21,22) is evident allusion to the snake on the
pole to which all Israel were bidden look and be saved. And yet that
saving symbol of the crucified Jesus is in fact God Himself held up to
all men. The Hebrew word nasa translated "forgive" is also
translated 'bear' as in 'bearing / carrying iniquity' (1). When God
forgave, He bore / carried sin; and the idea of carrying sin is
obviously brought into visual, graphic meaning in the literal carrying
of the cross by the Lord Jesus. Indeed, the Hebrew word nes,
translated "pole" in the record of the bronze snake being lifted up on
a "pole", is the noun for which nasa is the verb. The essence
of cross carrying had therefore been performed by God for millenia,
every time He forgave human sin. It's understandable, therefore, that
He had a special manifestation in the final sufferings and death of His
- " God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto
himself" (2 Cor. 5:19) seems to be a comment on the death, rather than
the nature, of the Lord Jesus. It is in the context of the statement
that Christ died for all men (2 Cor. 5:14). In that death, God was
especially in Christ. Perhaps it was partly with reference to the cross
that the Lord said: “I shall shew you plainly of the Father" (Jn.
- The mention that Jesus stood before Pilate “in
a place that is called the Pavement" (Jn. 19:13) reminds us of Ex.
24:10, where Yahweh was enthroned in glory on another
‘pavement’ when the old covenant was made with Israel. The
New Covenant was inaugurated with something similar. “In him
dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9) would have
been easily perceived as an allusion to the way that Yahweh Himself as
it were dwelt between the cherubim on the mercy seat (2 Kings 19:15;
Ps. 80:1). And yet the Lord Jesus in His death was the “[place
of] propitiation" (Heb. 2:17), the blood-sprinkled mercy seat.
“There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from
above the mercy-seat...of all things which I will give thee in
commandment" (Ex. 25:20-22). In the cross, God met with man and
communed with us, commanding us the life we ought to lead through all
the unspoken, unarticulated imperatives which there are within the
blood of His Son. There in the person of Jesus nailed to the tree do we
find the focus of God’s glory and self-revelation, and to this
place we may come to seek redemption.
- The High Priest on the day of Atonement sprinkled the
blood eastwards, on the mercy seat. He would therefore have had to walk
round to God's side of the mercy seat and sprinkle the blood back the
way he had come. This would have given the picture of the blood coming
out from the presence of God Himself; as if He was the
sacrifice. Acts 20:28 seems to teach (in the AV) that God purchased the
church with His own blood. His manifestation in His Son was
- Heb. 9:17 is hard to interpret: "A testament is of
force where there hath been death: for doth it ever avail while he that
made it liveth?" (RV). The difficulty is that the testament or covenant
was made by God; but it comes into operative force through the death of
the person who made it. But it was Jesus and not God who died. The
reasoning only seems to make sense if we understand that God was very
intensely identified with Christ in the death of the cross.
- The final chapters of Revelation so often parallel
God and “the lamb" (e.g. Rev. 22:3). The Father was so deeply
united with the Son in His time of sacrificial offering.
- The blood of the sin offering was to be sprinkled
“before the LORD, before the veil" (Lev. 4:6,17). Yet the veil
was a symbol of the flesh of the Lord Jesus at the time of His dying.
At the time of the sprinkling of blood when the sin offering was made,
the veil [the flesh of the Lord Jesus] was identifiable with Yahweh
Himself. The blood of the offerings was poured out “before
Yahweh" (Lev. 4:15 etc.), pointing forward to how God Himself, from so
physically far away, “came down" so that the blood shedding of
His Son was done as it were in His presence. And who is to say that the
theophany that afternoon, of earthquake and thick darkness, was not the
personal presence of Yahweh, hovering above crucifixion hill? Over the
mercy seat (a symbol of the Lord Jesus in Hebrews), between the
cherubim where the blood was sprinkled, “there I will meet with
thee, and I will commune with thee" (Ex. 25:22). There we see the
essence of God, and there in the cross we hear the essential word and
message of God made flesh.
We are justified by many things, all of which are in
some way parallel with each other: the blood of Christ (Rom. 5:9),
grace and the redemption which there is in His blood (Rom. 3:24), our
faith in Christ (Rom. 5:1; Gal. 2:16), the name of the Lord Jesus, the
spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:11), by our confession of sin (Ps. 51:4;
Lk. 18:14). All these things revolve around the death of the Lord
Jesus, the shedding of His blood. This becomes parallel with the name
of Jesus, “Christ"- because the cross presents us with the very
essence of the person of the Lord Jesus. But it is also parallel with
the spirit or mind / essence of God. Because in that naked, bleeding,
derided body and person, in that shed blood, there was the essence of
all that God was to us, is to us, and ever shall be for us. It was the
cross above all which revealed to us the essence of God Almighty. And
it is the cross, the blood of Jesus, which elicits in us the confession
of sin which is vital for our justification.
There are links between the concept of
‘truth’ and the cross. In Ps. 60:4 God’s Truth is
displayed on the banner (s.w. “pole" , on which the snake was
lifted up). John struggled with words, even under inspiration, to get
over to us the tremendous truth and reality of what he witnessed at the
cross (Jn. 19:35). God is the ultimate Truth, and the cross was the
ultimate declaration of His Truth. I would even suggest a chronological
progression in Jn. 1:14:
“The word was made flesh"- His birth
“And dwelt among us"- His life
“And we beheld his glory, full of grace and
truth"- His death on the cross. Christ’s glory is elsewhere used
by John with reference to the glory He displayed on the cross (Jn.
12:38-41; 12:28; 13:32; 17:1,5,24). John thus begins his Gospel with
the statement that he saw the Lord’s death. However, it is also
so that John “saw his glory" at the transfiguration; and yet even
there, “they saw his glory" (Lk. 9:32) as “they spake of
his decease which he should accomplish". His glory and His death were
ever linked. The fullness of grace and truth is one of John’s
many allusions to Moses’ experience when the Name was declared to
him- of Yahweh, a God full of grace and truth (Ex. 34:6 RV).
The Name was fully declared, as fully as could be, in the cross. The
Law gave way, through the cross, to the grace and truth that was
revealed by Christ after the Law ended (Jn. 1:17). In His dead,
outspent body grace and truth finally replaced law. John goes on to say
that the Son has declared the invisible God (Jn. 1:18)-
another reference to the cross. The implication may be that as Moses
cowered before the glory of the Lord, even he exceedingly
feared and quaked, we likewise should make an appropriate response to
the glory that was and is (note John’s tenses)
displayed to us in the cross. Mark how the naked man, covered in blood
and spittle, was there declaring God’s glory. Aaron the High
Priest bore the judgment for Israel’s sins, in another
anticipation of the cross, whilst arrayed in garments of glory and
beauty (Ex. 28:30). And so was the naked Lord arrayed, for those with
spiritual sight. Thus the word was manifested in glory through the
cross; and thus 1 Cor. 2:1,2 links the crucified Christ with “the
testimony of God".
John’s references to the hour coming nearly always
refer to the crucifixion. Jn. 16:25 must be interpreted in this
context: “The hour comes, when I shall no more speak unto you in
parables, but I shall show you plainly of the Father". The plain
showing forth of the Father was in the naked body of His crucified Son;
there, all the theory which Jesus had taught was exemplified in stark,
plain terms. The Father was ultimately revealed. Isa 64:1-4 had
foretold: “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou
wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy
presence...For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor
perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee,
what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him". This latter verse
is quoted in 1 Cor. 2 about how the “foolishness" of the cross is
not accepted by the wise of this world. Only the humble and spiritually
perceptive eye of faith realized that there in the naked shame of
Golgotha, God Himself had rent the heavens and come down, as all the
faithful had somehow, in some sense foreseen and yearned for. There, in
the battered body of Jesus, was God revealed to men.
Several Old Testament anticipations of the crucifixion
involve a time of great darkness when God Himself 'came down', in a way
reminiscent of the theophany on Sinai. There God Himself in person in
some form 'came down' to earth. Moses saw His back parts, but not His
face; for no man can see the face of God and live. He saw the face of
the Angel and spoke to him as a man speaks with his friend. Moses
seeing the back parts of God could even mean that God Himself came down
to earth. If He did this at the institution of the Old Covenant: how
much more at the death of His very own Son? The reference in Heb. 11:27
to Moses as having endured seeing the invisible may lend support to
this idea that Moses did in fact see the God who cannot be seen by men.
I submit that He was there, almost physically, at the cross. The blood
of the covenant was shed before Him, in His presence, just as countless
sacrifices in the tabernacle had foreshadowed for centuries beforehand.
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because that He (God) laid down His
life for us (1 Jn. 3:16 AV). Zech. 12:10 speaks as if it was God who
was pierced on the cross (note the pronouns in the context)- not that
He Himself was the one who died, but so intense was His manifestation
in His Son. This was the extent of God manifestation in Christ. But
beyond the concept of God manifestation, God Himself came down to
behold and be witness at the death of His Son. The immeasurably huge
physical distance between Heaven and earth may be there purely to show
to us the wonder, the pure wonder, of the 'coming down' of God in the
cross of Christ. This was how far He came down; the physical
distance represents the spiritual distance. Look up at the stars one
night, and consider the wonder of it all.
1 Timothy 3:16
1 Tim. 3:16 seems to have been a well known confessional
formula in the first century church; perhaps it was recited by the
candidate in the water before being baptized. It can be read as a
chronological description of the Lord's death and resurrection:
1. " God was manifested in the flesh" in the Lord's crucifixion,
not just His life. The manifestation of the Son was supremely
in His death (s.w. 1 Jn. 3:5,8; 4:9 cp. Jn. 3:16; Heb. 9:26 Gk.; Jn.
17:6 cp. 26).
2. " Justified in the Spirit" - the resurrection (Rom.
3. " Seen of Angels" - at the tomb (Mt. 28:2)
4. 'Preached unto the Gentiles for belief in the world'
(Gk.)- cp. Mk. 16:15,16
5. " Received up into glory" - what happened straight
after the commission to preach the Gospel world-wide.
This chronological approach suggests that " God was
manifest in the flesh" refers to the Father's especial manifestation in
His Son's crucified human nature during those hours of final suffering-
rather than just to His birth. There on Calvary, Almighty God Himself
was supremely revealed. He, God Himself, was despised and
rejected by men; His love and self-sacrifice were so cruelly
spurned; He was spat upon and made the song of the drunkards
(Ps. 69:12). The same word for “manifest" occurs in other
passages which relate it to the crucifxion:
- Heb. 9:26: “For then must he often have suffered
since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world
hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself".
- 1 Pet. 1:19-20: “...But with the precious blood
of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily
was foreordained before the foundation of the world [as the sacrifical
lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Rev. 13:8], but was manifest
in these last times for you".
- I Jn. 3:5-8: “And ye know that he was manifested
to take away our sins [on the cross]; and in him is no sin...For this
purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works
of the devil", which He did through His death (Heb. 2:14-18).
It may be added in passing that the same word is also
used about the final manifesting of the Lord Jesus at His return (Col.
3:4; 1 Pet. 5:4; 1 Jn. 2:28; 3:2). This explains the link between the
cross and His return; who He was then will be who He will be when He
comes in judgment. And this explains why the breaking of bread, with
its focus upon the cross, is a foretaste of our appearing before Him
The crucified Son of God was the full representation of
God. The love of Christ was shown in His cross; and through the
Spirit's enlightenment we can know the height, length,
breadth of that love (Eph. 3:18,19). But this passage in Ephesians is
building on Job 11:7-9: " Canst thou by searching find out God? canst
thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is high as heaven, what
canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure
thereof is longer than the earth and broader than the sea" . The
purpose of the connection is to show that through appreciating the love
of Christ, unknowable to the unenlightened mind, we see the Almighty
unto perfection, in a way which the Old Testament believers were unable
to do. It was as high as Heaven, and what could they do? And yet it
must be confessed that we do not in practice attain to such fullness of
knowledge and vision. We look to the Kingdom, one of the excellencies
of which will be the full grasp of the Almighty unto perfection, as
manifest in the death of His Son. All we now know is that
that cross was the fullness of God, it was " the Almighty unto
perfection" . But then, we shall know, we shall find it out.
The Form Of God
Philippians 2:6-9 describes the progressive
humiliation of the Lord Jesus on the cross (not in His birth, as
Trinitarian theology has mistakenly supposed. Note the allusions back
to Isaiah 53). There He was supremely " in the form of God" ,
but notwithstanding this He took even further the form of a servant. In
that blood and spittle covered humility and service, we see the very
form and essence of God. My understanding of Phil. 2:8 is that being in
the form of God, being the Son of God and having equality with God are
parallel statements. The Lord understood being 'equal with God' as some
kind of idiom for His Divine Sonship (Jn. 5:18; 10:33; 19:7). He was in
God's form, as His Son, and He therefore didn't consider equality with
God something to be snatched; He had it already, in that He was the Son
of God. In other words, " He considered it not robbery to be equal with
God" is to be read as a description of the exaltedness of His position
as Son of God; not as meaning that it never even occurred to Him to try
to be equal with God. He was equal with God in the sense that He and
the Father were one, spiritually, and on account of the fact that Jesus
was the begotten Son of the Father.
This interpretation depends upon understanding
'being equal with God' as an idiom for being the Son of God; it
doesn't, of course, mean that 'Jesus is God' in the Trinitarian sense.
There, on the cross, the Lord Jesus was the form of God, equal with God
in that sense, the only begotten Son. And yet on the cross His form was
marred more than that of any man, He finally had no form that could be
desired (Is. 52:14; 53:2). And yet this was the form of God. He
was contorted and marred more than ever, there was no beauty in Him
that men should desire Him, in those hours in which His Son suffered
there. The Lord Jesus then had the form of God, although in His mind He
had taken the form of a servant. The Lord made Himself a servant in His
mind; He looked not on His own things, but on those of others (Phil.
2:4,7). This is the context of Philippians 2; that we should have the mind
of Christ, who disregarded His own status as Son of God and humbled
Himself, even to death on the cross (1),
so that we might share His status. His example really is ours, Paul is
saying (which precludes this passage describing any 'incarnation' at
the birth of Christ). The Lord had spoken about the crucial need for a
man to humble himself if he is to be exalted (Lk. 14:11); and this is
evidently in Paul's mind when he writes of Christ humbling Himself and
then being exalted. He saw that the Lord lived out on the cross what He
had asked of us all. If that example must be ours, we can't quit just
because we feel rejected and misunderstood and not appreciated by our
brethren. For this is the very essence of the cross we are asked
The Serving Master
The Lord taking upon himself the form
of a servant (Phil. 2:7) is to be connected with how at the Last
Supper, He took (s.w.) a towel and girded Himself for service
(Jn. 13:4). The connection between the Last Supper and Phil. 2, which
describes the Lord's death on the cross, would suggest that the Lord's
washing the disciples' feet was an epitome of His whole sacrifice on
the cross. The passage describing the Last Supper begins with the
statement that the Lord " loved us unto the end" (Jn. 13:1). This is an
evident description of the cross itself; and yet His service of His
followers at the Last Supper was therefore an epitome of the cross. As
that Supper was " prepared" (Mt. 26:17,19), so the Lord on the cross "
prepared" a place for us in the Kingdom (Jn. 14:1 s.w.). As the
observing disciples didn't understand what the Lord was doing by
washing their feet, so they didn't understand the way to the cross (Jn.
13:7 cp. 36). There is thus a parallel between the feet washing and His
death. But in both cases, the Lord Jesus promised them that there was
coming a time when they would understand His washing of their feet; and
then they would know the way to the cross, and follow Him.
John describes the Lord laying aside
His clothes in order to wash the feet of His followers with the same
word he frequently employs to describe how Christ of His own volition laid
down His life on the cross, as an act of the will (Jn.
10:11,15,17,18); and how later His sacrificed body was laid aside
(19:41,42; 20:2,13,15). As the Lord laid Himself down for us,
epitomized by that deft laying aside of His clothes, so, John reasons,
we must likewise purposefully lay down our lives for our brethren (1
Jn. 3:16). As He did at the last supper, so He bids us do for each
other. John uses the same word for Christ's " garments" in his records
of both the last supper and the crucifixion (13:4,12 cp. 19:23). It
could be noted that the man at the supper without garments was seen by
the Lord as a symbol of the unworthy (Mt. 22:11 cp. Lk. 14:16,17). He
humbled Himself to the level of a sinner; He created the story of the
sinful man who could not lift up His eyes to Heaven to illustrate what
He meant by a man humbling himself so that he might be exalted (Lk.
18:14). And He humbled Himself (Phil. 2:9), He took upon Himself the
form of a servant and of a sinner, both in the last supper and the
final crucifixion which it epitomized. As the Lord Jesus laid aside His
garments and then washed the disciples' feet with only a towel around
His waist, so at the crucifixion He laid aside His clothes and perhaps
with a like nakedness, served us unto the end: the betrayers and the
indifferent and the cautiously believing alike. Throughout the record
of the Last Supper, there is ample evidence on the Lord's awareness of
Judas' betrayal (Jn. 13:10,11,18,21,25). The account in 1 Cor. 11:23
likewise stresses how the Supper was performed with the Lord's full
awareness of Judas' betrayal. It is perhaps therefore inevitable that
we in some ways struggle with the problems of rejection, of betrayal,
of being misunderstood and not appreciated by our brethren. For these
were all essential parts of the Lord's passion, which He asks us to
share with Him.
The Lord Jesus " humbled himself" , and was
later " highly exalted" (Phil. 2:9), practising His earlier teaching
that he who would humble himself and take the lowest seat at the meal
would be exalted higher (Mt. 23:11,12; Lk. 14:10,11). The Lord Jesus at
the Last Supper humbled Himself from the seat of honour which He had
and took not only the lowest seat, but even lower than that: He washed
their feet as the servant who didn't even have a place at the meal. And
both James and Peter saw the Lord's humbling Himself at that supper and
His subsequent exaltation as a direct pattern for us to copy (James
4:10; 1 Peter 5:6). Paul takes things one stage even further. He speaks
of how he humbled himself, so that his hopelessly weak and
ungrateful brethren might be exalted (2 Cor. 11:7). He is
evidently alluding to the Gospel passages which speak of how we must
humble ourselves so that we may be exalted (Mt. 23:11,12; Lk.
14:10,11). But Paul sees his exaltation, which his humbling
would enable, as being identical to theirs. He doesn't say:
'I humbled myself so that I may be exalted'. He speaks of how he
humbled himself so that they might be exalted.
(1) This point is exemplified and developed in
Graham Jackman, The Language Of The Cross (Lulu, 2008) p. 21.