The King's Dedication: Simeon and Anna Welcome ChristThe Humility of Christ
Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: The fact that we matter to God at all is evidence of God’s condescension, God’s humility. But I want to tell you something even more amazing. The condescension of God goes even further than that. He doesn’t just look at us. He doesn’t just think of us. He doesn’t just care for us. At Christmas we celebrate the fact that God came down to earth and became one of us.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, December 6. Yesterday we began a new series about a powerful scene—Jesus being dedicated at the temple. It’s part of the Christmas story that usually doesn’t get a lot of attention. We’ll see how this action points to Christ’s humility as Nancy continues in a series called The King’s Dedication.
Nancy: I think one of the most astounding things about the Christian faith is the humility of God. We get a glimpse of that in the passage we’re looking at this week, Luke chapter 2.
Let me ask you to turn there in your Bible if you haven’t already. Luke chapter 2, verse 21, tells us that “At the end of eight days [this is after the birth of Jesus], when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”
In the last session we looked at that verse and we saw the humanity of Christ, the fact that He is fully human. We saw the deity of Christ, the fact that He is fully God. We saw in that verse the identity of Christ: who He is and why He was born. Now in this verse we see the humility of Christ, the fact that God humbled Himself.
One of the words that theologians use to talk of the humility of God or the humility of Christ is His condescension. He condescended. He stooped to come to this earth.
Psalm 113 tells that, “The LORD is high above all nations, His glory above the heavens. Who is like the LORD our God, who dwells on high?” (verses 4-5, NKJV). And then verse 6, “Who humbles Himself.” The Lord who dwells on high “humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth.”
Think about that for a moment. God humbles Himself. God condescends to look at, to behold the things that are in the heavens. God has to stoop down to look at what’s in heaven. We have to look up to see what’s in heaven. God has to look down to see the things that are in the heavens.
The angels—they are lower than God. God stoops down. He humbles Himself to look at the things in heaven. That’s amazing to me, but even more amazing is the fact that God humbles Himself not only to behold the things that are in the heavens, but He humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the earth.
How far did God stoop down to come to this earth as a baby? We can’t fathom it. Psalm 8:3-4 tells us that God doesn’t just humble Himself to look at us. He does more than that. He says, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”
- So God doesn’t just look at us, He gets involved with us.
- He humbles Himself.
- He condescends.
- He stoops down to think of us.
- He is mindful of us.
- He stoops down to care for us.
- The fact that we matter to God at all is evidence of God’s condescension, God’s humility.
I want to tell you something even more amazing. The condescension of God goes even further than that. He doesn’t just look at us. He doesn’t just think of us. He doesn’t just care for us. At Christmas we celebrate the fact that God came down to earth and became one of us. He became a man.
Let me introduce you to another theological term. You’ve undoubtedly heard it, but I wonder if you could explain it. It’s the term the incarnation. The incarnation. You’ll hear that word a lot at this time of year. That’s a word that comes from two Latin words that mean "in the flesh." It’s a theological term that means "the Word became flesh." God took on human form. Emmanuel: God with us. The incarnation.
You see, the Christmas story is not just a sweet story about a baby being born in adverse circumstances. We have all the cute pictures and the sweet music. It is that, but it’s more than that. The Christmas story centers on a doctrine that is vital to the Christian faith, the doctrine of the incarnation.
One theologian defines the incarnation this way. He says, “It’s the act of the Son of God whereby He took to Himself a human nature.”1 Jesus was God in human flesh. That’s the incarnation. The fact that the Son of God was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary, that God became a man. What an amazing act of humility and condescension.
Philippians chapter 2, verses 6-7 tell us that though Jesus “was in the form of God, [He] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped [He didn’t cling to his rights as God, but what did he do?], but made himself nothing [the condescension; the humility of God] taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
For the next few moments, I want us to just think about the incarnation, to ponder the fact that God became a man, that He took on human flesh. The fact that the God of eternity entered the limits of time. The verse we’ve been looking at in Luke 2 tells us at the end of eight days the baby was circumcised and was called Jesus.
The God of eternity entered time. The God of infinity entered the limits of space. He was conceived in a womb. The God of infinity reducing Himself to the space of a womb. God who is Spirit took on human flesh.
Heaven and earth cannot contain God, and yet God became confined to a human body.
- The Ancient of Days became a newborn.
- At the birth of Christ, the Helper (with a capital H) became a helpless baby.
- The One who holds the universe in His hands and whose everlasting arms are beneath all of creation was held in the arms of Mary and Joseph and, as we’ll see later in this chapter, Simeon.
- His arms hold the universe in place, and yet He was held in the arms of a teenage girl.
- The One on whom we’re dependent for every breath became dependent. He had to be carried into the temple in His mother’s arms.
- The One who is the giver and the source of all life, by whom all things in heaven and on earth were made (He’s the creator; He’s the giver and source of life), was Himself made in the likeness of human flesh.
- When I was thinking about that, it’s like a renowned potter becoming a clay pot.
- The Creator becomes one of His created beings.
- The Creator became a creature.
- The One who created the first woman was born of a woman.
- The One who opens and closes the womb and causes conception to take place, He Himself was conceived and became an embryo in the womb of a woman.
- The One who causes unborn babies to gestate in the womb, Himself became a baby gestating in a womb.
Psalm 29:4 tells us that He is the one whose voice is powerful and full and majesty. That One, the One whose voice is powerful and full of majesty, was reduced to a baby’s cry. Psalm 29:9 goes on to say that His voice makes the deer give birth. That One whose voice makes the deer give birth squeezed through the birth canal of a woman.
That same Psalm (29:10) tells us that He sits enthroned as king over the flood forever. The One who sits enthroned as king over the flood forever exchanged His throne for a bed in an animal’s feeding trough.
Is that amazing to you? It’s astonishing to me as I think about it. He who created angels was, according to Hebrews 2:7, for a little while made lower than the angels. As further evidence of His humility, from the very earliest days of Jesus’ life here on earth and throughout His entire life, we see His submission and His obedience. God humbles Himself. God submits Himself in the person of Christ and becomes obedient.
How do we see that here in Luke chapter 2, verse 21? “At the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” We see His submission, His condescension, in that verse.
First, in the fact that He was named. You say, how does that show His humility? Well, being named is itself an act of submission. The practice of naming something or someone in the Scripture is associated with authority or dominion as when Adam was assigned to name the animals and he was given dominion over the animals.
The One from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, according to Ephesians chapter 3, that One from whom we all got our names, the One at whose name every knee will bow was given a human name, the name of Jesus. He was named. God is the One who chose the name for His Son, the name Jesus. It shows the Father’s authority over the Son and the Son’s submission to the Father.
So, by the way, when we’re asked to submit ourselves to human authorities, remember you’re never more like Jesus than when you’re in submission to God-ordained authority. God named His Son. The Son came under the authority of the Father and took the name given by the Father. It’s evidence of his humility as He submitted himself.
The sovereign ruler of the universe, the One before whom angels bow became obedient. He obeyed the will of His Father. He became obedient to the will of His earthly parents. He became obedient to suffering. He became obedient to the law of Moses and the law of God.
We see that in this verse in Luke chapter 2, verse 21, that tells us He was circumcised. As we go into the rest of this passage in the days ahead, we’ll see more about Jesus’ obedience to the law of God, but it started right here eight days after His birth in the fact that He was circumcised.
What does that mean and how does it show us the humility and the submission, the obedience of Jesus? Well, the word circumcision comes from two Latin words that mean "to cut around." Circumcision is the surgical removal or the cutting away of the foreskin of the male reproductive organ.
Circumcision was given to Abraham in Genesis chapter 17 as the sign and the seal of God’s covenant with His Jewish people. It was a sign that was required of all Jewish males when they were eight days old. God commanded it and Jesus followed—His parents followed—took him through the process of following and obeying and submitting to the law of God regarding circumcision.
Physical circumcision of the Jewish male babies was intended to be a symbol, a picture of a spiritual reality. It was supposed to represent a work of God in the human heart. So we read throughout the Scripture where God said to His people "circumcise your hearts."
They had the physical act of circumcision, but that was to represent a spiritual circumcision of their hearts. What did that mean? Put away the evil from your hearts. Cut it away. Be repentant. Separate from your sins.
So in verse 21 of Luke 2, we see that Jesus was circumcised eight days after His birth. That raises a question. Jesus had no sin to be cut away. He was sinless. He was perfect. He was the Son of God, and He didn’t need the symbol of having His flesh cut away since He was without sin.
So why did He need to be circumcised? First, it was a public testimony to the Jews that Jesus Himself was a Jew according to the flesh. He was born of a woman, born under the law, Galatians 4 tells us. As a Jewish boy and Jewish newborn, He fulfilled the law’s requirements.
Apart from fulfilling the law’s requirements, starting with circumcision on the eighth day after His birth, He would not have been recognized by the Jews as the Son of David or the seed of Abraham. He could not have been the Messiah if He were not fully Jewish. This was a public testimony that He was a Jew according to the flesh.
In His circumcision, He demonstrated His submission to the law of God. The sovereign God who established this covenant in the first place became subject to it. Why? So He could set us free from the bondage to the law. If He had not fulfilled the law, He could not have redeemed us from the bondage of the law.
So Christ suffered. That was a part of His submission, a part of His humility. He suffered, even at eight days old, He endured pain in the flesh as He was circumcised and He did it for us, for our sakes.
One commentator says the circumcision of Jesus was His first suffering for us. It was a foretaste of the immense suffering that He would one day endure for sinners. His circumcision demonstrated His obedience, not only to the law of God, but His willingness to shed His blood for the forgiveness of our sins. This was the first shedding of His blood. Just a few drops at this point, but a picture of the One who would one day shed rivers of blood at the cross.
Frederic Farrar wrote a commentary in the 19th century called The Life of Christ. Let me read to you what he had to say about this point in Jesus’ life. He says, “As the East catches at sunset the colours of the West, so Bethlehem is a prelude to Calvary, and even the Infant’s cradle is tinged with a crimson reflection from the Redeemer’s cross.”
Don’t you love that? We see even at this stage, eight days of age, as Jesus goes through the rite of circumcision, a faint shadow of the cross, which is why Jesus came. So as an infant, Jesus submitted to an ordinance that He did not need for Himself, as He had no sin to be put away.
In so doing, in going through the rite of circumcision, He was not only made in the likeness of human flesh as He became a baby, but He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh as Romans 8 tells us. He came to earth to take our place as sinners, to submit to God’s law, to suffer sin’s consequences, and to sacrifice His own life as a payment for our sins. He did it all for us.
Father Damien was a Belgian priest in the 1800s who went to a village on the island of Molokai in Hawaii, a village that had been quarantined as a leper colony. For 16 years, Father Damien lived with these people that no one else wanted to have anything to do with. He learned their language. He served them. He built homes for them. He organized schools and choirs.
Rather than being careful to keep His distance from the lepers as most would have done, He got right up next to them. He bandaged their wounds. He ate with his patients, sometimes out of the same dish. He touched people that others considered untouchable.
Gradually, throughout the course of his years of serving there, that village was transformed. Despair was replaced with hope. Yet for years he was still different in one very important point. They were lepers, and he was not.
Then one day he stood up before his congregation and he began his sermon with two words. “We lepers,” for he had contracted leprosy while living among the people. From that moment on people in that village saw this servant in a whole different light. Now he wasn’t just living among them. He wasn’t just serving them. He had actually become one of them. Not only would he share their life, now he would die as they died.
On Christmas we celebrate the day that God came to our village. He didn’t just come to help us. He began His message by saying "we lepers." We sinners. He had become one of us. He took on our sin. Now, He never sinned, but He took on our sin from infancy. He humbled Himself to partake of our sin-diseased condition and ultimately went to the cross and died our death.
So as we ponder the humility, the condescension of Christ, the fact that God took on a human body and became flesh; that He humbled Himself; He endured pain; He bled; He ultimately died, the great humility and condescension of Christ, how should we respond? Well, for sure, with gratitude. Thank Him. Thank Him for His humility, His willingness to lay aside His rights as God. His willingness to deny Himself. His willingness to be obedient to the point of shedding blood, even at eight days of age.
As we thank Him, should not our hearts be humbled? How can we ponder and consider the humility of Christ and then deal with others in ways that are not humble? How can we be proud? How can we cling to our rights? How can we be stubborn? How can we be disobedient when He humbled Himself and became obedient?
How can we be self-seeking when He left all of heaven’s splendor and glory, laid it aside and came here to seek our welfare, not His own? How can we be self-promoting when He stepped down from His throne and was born into an animal’s feeding trough?
You see how foolish it is? How unthinkable it is that we should exalt ourselves, promote ourselves, dig in our heels, resist God or be proud in our hearts when we have been saved by a God who humbled Himself and became obedient.
Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to pray. She’s been helping us see past the distractions of lights and busyness to remember how incredible it is that God would become flesh.
You can order a copy of today’s program as part of a series called The King’s Dedication. It will broaden your concept of the story of Christmas, helping you appreciate some important characters like Simeon. Nancy will tell us about him in a few days.
To order The King’s Dedication on CD or MP3 CD, just visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959.
Do you know Nancy Leigh DeMoss hosts another radio program besides this one? The other is called Seeking Him. It’s a lot shorter: 60 seconds. We actually call it a radio feature, but that one minute is full of hard-hitting content.
Not long ago we began offering listeners a transcript of this daily 60-second feature via email, and so many have written to say they love it. One listener said, “Thank you for your daily reminders of what’s important to think about in life. They’re like a cup of cold water on a hot day or a nice fresh apple when you need something to munch on.”
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Mary and Joseph faced a lot of stress. The birth of their baby had been complicated by travel and housing problems. Yet difficult as it was, they still obeyed God’s Word and dedicated their newborn at the temple. Learn why this was so important when Nancy picks up the teaching tomorrow. Now, let’s pray.
Nancy: Father, we do want to thank You. We want to bless You for taking on human flesh, for Your amazing, astonishing, astounding condescension, for humbling Yourself. Lord, we can’t fathom the gap that You stepped across, the chasm that You bridged to become one of us. We thank You. Give us a fresh sense of the wonder of what that means.
May our hearts in this Christmas season be humble and broken before You. May we humble ourselves before others. May we be clothed in the Spirit of Christ, not clinging to our rights but laying them down for Christ’s sake who laid down His rights for us. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
1Grudem. Systematic Theology. 1244, 543.Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.