“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Cor. 4:7)
By entering into a human body through the incarnation of the Son of God…Jesus Christ…God is opening Himself up to the hard realities of a radical downgrading in outward appearances compared to His glory in heaven. The classic book The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain gives us a wonderfully adventurous and compelling story that parallels the situation of Jesus Christ closely in this regard. The real prince disguised in pauper’s clothes, unprotected by his voluntary loss of royal status out in the rough-and-tumble world at-large, is subject to the same perils and abuses faced every day by the look-alike pauper boy with whom the prince has temporarily and secretly exchanged places with.
Jesus Christ cannot live out His unique mission in a human body and still at the same time retain some portion of His divine, outward appearing glory. Jesus is now in an “earthen vessel.” Jesus cannot walk around Israel in the first-century having a low-level exterior glow of light surrounding His body in a sort of low calorie, sugar-free, “God-Light” aura. God cannot split the difference halfway between the unremarkable outward appearance of a normal human being…and the unmistakably divine glory that Jesus enjoyed as the Son of God…the Second Person of the Trinity in heaven.
In terms of outward appearances the incarnation is an all or nothing enterprise. It is a binary yes or no enterprise. It is a go or no-go for launch decision.
Any amount of visible, supernaturally divine light emanating around the exterior Person of Jesus the son of Mary and step-son of Joseph the carpenter, growing up in Nazareth, and during His subsequent public ministry…would have tipped the salvation scale away from the free-will exercise of commendable faith in Christ as Savior…for all of the right reasons…towards the morally neutral, bland, merely factual observation of and acquiescence in the recognition of the physical phenomenon of a visually glorified Jesus Christ.
What this tells us about the character of God is that He has the breadth and depth of capacity to empty Himself fully of all of the advantages of the outward appearances of His glory…for our sakes. God’s love for us is so strong and pure that He can enter into the unvarnished status of a normal appearing human being as Jesus Christ from the small and unremarkable town of Nazareth (Phil. 2:5-8; Isa 9:6, 53:5)…to become the Passover Lamb of God for our sins.
God can craft salvation for mankind through the self-effacing humility of the exterior visual downgrading of the divine…through the incarnation of Jesus Christ…eventually even leading to the ultimate physical degradation of all divine status in submitting Himself to the cruel and undeserved death on the cross of Calvary…taking our place.
Everyone can relate to this on some level. At many points in each of our lives we have been unappreciated, passed-over, set-aside, un-esteemed, or made to feel less than important.
But the humility component of the stepping down of the Son of God from heaven into a human body is an essential factor in the rejection of Jesus Christ foretold in Isaiah 53…which leads directly to the cross, the resurrection, and our eternal salvation.
This is at a level of complexity and novelty beyond anything that human creative imagination could conceive of or invent…much less bring it into human experience and comprehension within the fabric of historical events.