Summary: 1. Jesus Christ humbled himself. 2. Jesus Christ surrendered himself. 3. Jesus Christ gave himself to save us.
The Apostle’s Creed, which we are studying, is a creed of contrasts. Listen to the stark opposites to which we profess faith: “I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary.” From that great pronouncement of Christ’s uniqueness, glory and deity, we immediately go to the next part of the creed that says, “Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.” We go from mystery, grandeur and beauty to degradation, misery and death. It is a constant reminder that Christ left his home and position in Glory to experience life on earth. He left everything to be partners with us in the pilgrimage of life. God created the world, and then was born into it. He came to suffer and die in the world which he had made.
When we say that we believe that Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, we mean that Jesus was a real person who existed in real time and history on planet earth. He who was fully God became fully man. But in order to become fully human, it meant that, first of all, Jesus Christ humbled himself. We will never understand the depth of Christ’s humility in coming to the earth. The Bible says, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8). You can almost hear the writer of those words gasp with wonder at the very thought of the truth his words described. God emptied himself. Theologians call this the kenosis, coming from the Greek word meaning “to empty.” The question is: What was it that Jesus emptied himself of when he came to earth? Was it his divinity? No, for he was still God, though he wore the disguise of a human body. Was he emptied of his power? It might appear that way, but he still had the power to forgive sin. He had the power to heal disease and make withered limbs whole. He had the power to bring life back into bodies that were dead. He had power over nature so that he could stop a storm and calm a sea with a single word. He was not completely limited in knowledge because he knew the name of Zacchaeus before he was told (Luke 19). He saw Nathaniel before he ever met him, and described what Nathaniel was doing even though he was a great distance away (John 1:48). He knew the life history of the woman at the well whom he had never met her before (John 4:4-26).
What was it then that he did not have on earth that he did have before in eternity? His divine nature was intact, and he retained divine power and knowledge, but he was robbed of his glory, his dignity, and his divine prerogatives and splendor as God. “Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself.” But it went beyond humility, for the Bible says, “Yet it was the LORD’S will to crush him and cause him to suffer....” (Isaiah 53:10). He wanted to do it for you, and because of that, the Bible writer says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). When Jesus’ task on earth was done he prayed: “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:5). He knew he would return once again to the presence of the Father’s glory.