From The Second Half of the Cross
“But made of himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; And, being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:7-8)
The life of Jesus does not fit the pattern of any other person in the Old or New Testaments, because Jesus is in the will of God from the very beginning of His life on earth. There is no second half of the cross, no transformational journey of character growth for Jesus. Jesus is the One who invented and personifies perfectly this concept of the second half of the cross.
Jesus as the Son of God does not need a change of heart to turn from a sinful life to a godly life, because He is thoroughly without sin. Although Jesus was spotless as the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for the sins of the world, however, Jesus was still a human being that we can relate to. The character of God shines forth from Jesus Christ through a human context. All of the choices that Jesus made during His ministry, and all of His experiences recorded in the gospels, we can consider and emulate, because He was divinely perfect as a human being.
One of the blessings that God gave to mankind is the fact that the Son of God had a humble birth and upbringing. If Jesus was born in a palace surrounded by wealth and privilege, then common men would always feel that poverty was an impediment to a godly and holy life. Not only did Jesus have a humble birth, but an unusually difficult entrance into life. The gospels tell us that Mary is pregnant with the child Jesus before she has started marital relations with her future husband Joseph. This opening crisis is solved only after an angel informs Joseph in a dream of the situation.
Next is the difficult journey to Bethlehem to be registered by the Roman government, at the very time that Jesus is to be born. Joseph is not wealthy or influential enough to be able to secure a place to stay ahead of time in Bethlehem, and the inn is full when they arrive, so Jesus is born in a stable and placed in a manger where new born lambs are placed.
There is no special welcome from town officials, or a delegation of rulers from Jerusalem, or a parade down the main street of Bethlehem. If it were not for the angels notifying the humble shepherds at night to go into town and see the baby Jesus, no one would have known that the Creator of the universe had just entered the world as a newborn baby boy.
That Jesus entered the world at a low social level tells us that God’s idea of a human life for His Son is based upon the barest realities of human existence. In the life of Jesus, God is telling us that He is prepared to enter into the deepest and most profound areas of human challenge, suffering, and sorrow, without any shortcuts or special favoritism. He lets us know this from the very outset by placing Jesus in the home of a humble carpenter in a small, outlying town called Nazareth in Israel in the first century.
Imagine for a moment the incredible fact that Jesus Christ the Creator of the universe, as a small infant was completely dependent upon His two human parents Joseph and Mary. The humbleness of the manger scene is made infinitely sublime by virtue of the realization that the Almighty Son of God elected to enter life just like any other human being. By doing this Jesus became the bridge between God and man. Shakespeare or Dickens could not do full justice to this remarkable aspect of the depth of God’s divine love. Handel’s Messiah comes close to capturing the magnificence of the Incarnation through music and lyrics. The melodies and lyrics of some of our most famous, inspired Christmas carols and hymns also come close.
When Jesus was twelve years old, on the annual family visit to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, Jesus stays behind in Jerusalem unbeknownst to His parents, to converse with the teachers of the law. Joseph and Mary find Jesus in the temple sitting amongst these teachers, asking them questions and listening to their answers. The gospel of Luke says that all that heard the young Jesus were amazed and astonished at His understanding and answers.
If true religion was just about great teaching, then Jesus at this point could have been universally acclaimed as a prodigy and then educated and nurtured along by these teachers in Jerusalem and elsewhere to become a great world philosopher. But the Bible tells us that Jesus simply returned with His parents to Nazareth, and was subject unto them.
One reason that Jesus does not go on the international speaking circuit in his late teens or early twenties is that the plan of God for Jesus involves much more than teaching, although that is a vitally important part.
Jesus is not only the greatest teacher in all of history, but He is also the Passover Lamb of God that suffers death on the cross to take upon Himself the sins of the world. Jesus can give us all of the parables and examples recorded for us in the gospels, but God knows we need forgiveness and cleansing from sin first, and then the power of the Holy Spirit to put into practice the teachings and commandments of Jesus.
God the Father knows that we need the cross and the resurrection of Jesus to put us back into proper spiritual balance before He can effectively work with us. Jesus went back to Nazareth with his earthly parents, after this brief interlude with the priests and scribes in the temple, because His role as the Messiah and the Passover Lamb were equally important to His role as a teacher.