Though the Father’s Son was in the form of God he willingly took the form of a servant. He came freely to serve his Father in the power of the Spirit. Always listening for what his Father wanted him to do. Always seeking his Father’s will rather than his own. His food was to do the work his Father gave him to do. His joy was to make his Father glad.
In serving his Father Jesus also served us. Jesus’ Father loves us and so he wanted him to serve us by giving himself freely to and for us. And so, out of love for his Father and us Jesus gave himself to serve by going to the very lowest place even death on the cross. In that way, Jesus shows that he is the true God. For it is this humility that marks out the true God from all false gods. The false gods are a reflection of the human pride which will not stoop to that which is beneath it. In contrast, we see that the true God is not proud. He is the humble God who wants to stoop low in order to serve.
Having stooped to the lowest place, Jesus’ Father exalted him to the very highest place giving him the name above all names. But even though Jesus is now exalted to be confessed as Lord by all he still wants to serve his Father by serving us. He does so as he works within us by his Spirit so that we freely serve him as our Lord. He does not want to coerce us into serving; he wants to inwardly enable us so that we serve him freely and gladly as he serves his Father.
Jesus IS reconciliation from both God’s side and ours.
Jesus is reconciliation from the side of God for he is God’s action reconciling the world to himself. In Jesus God actually came among us doing everything necessary for a new relation with himself. As the Holy One he became sin to overcome sin in himself. As the Judge he was judged so that there is no condemnation for us. God did not hold himself aloof having distant dealings with us. He came among us as one of us to bring us back to himself.
Jesus is reconciliation from the side of God, but also from our side. He lives the true human life in trustful obedience to his Father even unto death. He does so in our place and on our behalf. And he is raised from death as the new man who represents the new humanity now reconciled to God. In Jesus alone there is a new relation of God to humanity and humanity to God.
So we always fix our eyes on Jesus as our reconciliation with God. We do not look towards him at the start only to leave him behind as we move on to other matters. The Spirit of Christ always brings us to Christ setting our hearts always on him as our reconciliation. With the eyes of our hearts fixed on Jesus, we can constantly live and move in the joy and freedom of our new relation with God. For “our” relation with God is actually Jesus’ relation with the Father that we share in by his Spirit.
God created humanity to live under his rule in love, joy and peace. But humanity has rejected God’s rule and exists under the domain of sin and death. Nevertheless, God responded to this tragedy with a decisive new intervention. He rescued us from the domain of sin by entering into our sin even “becoming” sin for us. He rescued us from the domain of death by entering into our death even “tasting death” for us. God descended into the domain of darkness destroying it from the inside. In Christ sin and death are destroyed within God’s own being as human.
In this rescue act the old humanity under the rule of sin and death is brought to an end. It is put to death. Christ died for us and we died with him. The old humanity has gone! Now, a new relation to God comes into existence. There is a new man, a new humanity, a new creation The old has gone the new has come!
All this brings to an end any pretence that we can reach God through our own religious efforts. All our ideas about what God is like have been interrupted and replaced with the beautiful reality of a humble God who loves us and gives himself over to sin and death for us. The crucified Christ turns our common assumptions about God on their head! Furthermore, all our “wisdom” about how to reach God is now seen as utter foolishness. We must follow the new and living way opened up to us in the crucified Christ who is now risen as new man in new creation. That means we must put to death all notions of religious self-effort. All our religiosity must die before the cross!
The Father’s Son become lowly human servant offering up his own life for us. In doing so, he brought to an end the old age under the power of sin and death. Not only did he die for us, we also died with him and death itself also died. Following on from that dramatic event, the Father raised Jesus from the dead as new man in new creation. He was raised for us and we were raised with him.
These sentences set out something of what God has done for us in Jesus. And yet, we must recognise that God and his reconciling acts cannot be contained within our sentences. Through our sentences we try to express faithfully all that God has done in Jesus; but it isn’t reducible to ideas, theories and arguments. Who can say what is unspeakable, and who can describe what no eye has seen?
All our sentences about God have their truth, not in themselves, but only in him to whom they refer. And so, by the Spirit’s enlightenment, we must pass beyond our sentences to the actual person of Christ himself allowing his person to continually remould our understanding of him. As the Spirit of Christ takes us ever deeper into the mystery of Christ we see more and more who he is and what he has done for us. Even so, the fullness of Christ always remains hidden from our view. And the more we gaze on him the more the hiddenness grows. While the more we encounter the one who is hidden, the more he opens himself to us beyond our sentences.
During Old Testament times, did anyone see that the repeated sacrifices for sin were mere shadows? Did anyone begin to imagine that the reality to which the sacrifices pointed was the self-offering of one man as the once for all sacrifice for sin? Furthermore, would anyone dare to envision that the person offering himself as the sacrifice for sin would be God as human? Would anyone dream that God himself would act to reconcile the world both as Judge and judged; priest and sacrifice.
On this side of the cross, and in the light of resurrection, we now see that Jesus has done the unimaginable in himself. We now know that through the cross God himself, as the man Jesus, tastes death for all. We now discern that through the cross our old fallen humanity is brought to an end and is replaced by a new humanity in resurrection. We now recognise that through the cross, sins are forgiven and captives set free. Yes, we grasp all this and more! However, we still cannot penetrate fully into the meaning of his cross, for it is all an impenetrable mystery.
We can only begin to see something of the meaning of the mystery as God’s Spirit opens the eyes of our hearts. Only then can we begin to see something of the mystery that brought about the new creation in Christ. So, as T F Torrance says, “We cannot think our way into the cross of Christ but only out from it”. And, with Torrance, I must add, that we can only do so from the resurrection side of the cross as the Spirit of Christ opens to us the mystery of Christ. For the meaning of the cross transcends our attempts to define it and even what was prefigured in the Old Testament. And so we survey the wondrous cross in awe.