Summary: Paul sums up the meaning of the Incarnation in this one sentence: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that through his poverty you might become rich."
Rich – Poor – Rich
2 Cor. 8:9
Al Lingren, a professor at Garrett Evangelical Seminary, tells about taking his junior-high-school son fishing years ago. It was one of those days when the fish wouldn’t bite, so the two of them had a lot of time to talk. Out of the blue his junior-high son asked, "Dad, what’s the toughest thing God ever tried to do?”
Al said that the question caught him, a minister, off guard. He didn’t know what to say, and so like a good teacher answered a question with a question. "What do you think it was son?”
His son responded, "Even though you’re a minister you don’t know much about God, do you, Dad?” The boy then proceeded to answer his own question.
"Since taking science in school, I thought the creation of the world might be the hardest thing God ever tried to do,” he said. "In Sunday School we got to talking about some of the miracles, like Jesus’ resurrection, and I thought that might be the toughest thing God ever did. Then after thinking some more and talking to others, I decided that no one knows God really well. So now I think that the toughest thing God ever tried to do is to get us to understand who he is and that he loves us.”
The father could simply say to his boy, "Son. I think you’re right. That is the hardest thing that God ever had to do and there was only one way he could do it.” (From a sermon by Dr. Donald Strobe who cites the bulletin of the Metropolitan UMC, Detroit, Aug. 23, 1987 as his source.)
God becoming man is what Christmas is about. The incarnation is spoken of in the NT many ways: as the full revelation of God; as the final step of redemption’s plan; and with other metaphors.
In 2 Corinthians 8:9, Paul uses it as the greatest motivation for giving:
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that through his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9 NIV)
What Christian wouldn’t understand the correctness of this example of God’s extravagant giving and be motivated by it? And how perfectly and succinctly this verse captures the essence of Christmas.
1. FROM RICH TO POOR
All Christians confess that Jesus was Divine, that He had a pre-existence with the Father. He had all the prerogatives and knew the glory of God. John in the beginning of his gospel puts it this way (John 1:1-4, 14, 17):
Jn 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Jn 1:2 He was with God in the beginning.
Jn 1:3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
Jn 1:4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
Jn 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jn 1:17 … grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor…”
A Helpless baby… totally dependent, unable to help himself... [expand]
“Think about it: when people are struck with a serious illness, something progressively debilitating, so that they know over time they’re going to become less and less able to care for themselves, one of the things they fear most is losing control. Becoming dependent on someone else, at first needing someone to drive them places and perhaps prepare meals for them, and then eventually having to rely on other people for the basic necessities of life – to dress them, and feed them, and bathe them. Yet Jesus voluntarily took on this kind of complete helplessness, the kind that we fear so much.” (- Alan Perkins from the sermon, The Humility of the Incarnation)
He grew… from a child into a teen; who knows more than their parents…he thinks… [expand]
Unlike us, Jesus humbled himself and willingly yielded to his parents authority over him. He respected their authority, whether he agreed with them or not, or thought he knew better than them. He submitted because it was the right thing to do, because God the Father had placed him in a position of subjection to them. If Jesus could do it, then so can we. By His power, we can show respect and honor to those in authority over us, even when they don’t deserve it, even if we’re convinced they’re wrong.
But Christ’s humility didn’t end with his birth or his childhood. It continued throughout his life.