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April 02, 2012
Yesterday I had the rare opportunity to preach for just one Sunday which meant that instead of beginning a sermon series or continuing a series, I could preach any text that seemed fitting. As I thought and prayed, I was drawn to Luke 10 and the short story of Mary and Martha and the sibling rivalry between them. My purpose in going to that passage was not primarily to teach on the contrast between the life of busy service and the life of quiet contemplation, but to see Jesus as the central character in the story and to learn from him.
As I studied the passage and read other sermons about it, I was surprised at how many preachers forget about Jesus and focus on the sisters instead. In contrast, I found it such a blessing to focus on Jesus and to meet him in that text. Let me tell you about just one of the blessings I found there.
That little story so clearly displays Jesus in his humiliation. Humiliation is a term we use to describe God becoming man, to describe the fact that the Son of God humbled himself by laying aside his glory and becoming human and ultimately dying the death of a criminal.
I don’t ever want to lose the wonder of God being there in Martha’s home. We are less than a week away from Good Friday and Easter, when Christians will meet together to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus, the pivotal events in all of human history. We will proclaim our belief that Jesus was put to death so he could face the wrath of God against sin, so he could suffer the punishment for the sin of all those who would believe in him. As Christians we proclaim the death of Jesus every week, we sing about it, we celebrate it, we have nothing and are nothing without it.
But in all our talk of the death of Jesus, we need to guard against losing the wonder of the fact that Jesus first lived. God was born in human flesh and came and lived among us. I think we sometimes forget just how miraculous it is that God himself, the second person of the Trinity, was born in human flesh, that he was truly human—as human as you and me. The one who created the world was born into this world, as a crying, naked little baby, he was raised by a man and woman that he had created, he was obedient to these people, he had to grow in wisdom and understanding, he really did walk from place to place, he got blisters on his feet, he got tired and hungry, he needed hospitality. The One who created the universe needed hospitality. Isn’t that an amazing thing to consider?
Charles Wesley wrote a powerful hymn in which he proclaims the wonder of God made man. He writes.
Let earth and Heav’n combine, angels and men agree
To praise in songs divine, Th’incarnate deity
Our God contracted to a span, Our God contracted to a span,
Incomprehensibly made Man.
He goes on write,
See in that Infant’s face, the depths of deity,
And labor while you gaze, to sound the mystery
In vain, you angels gaze no more, in vain, you angels gaze no more
But fall, and silently adore.
In the face of an infant were all the depths of deity. The Son of God, infinite, eternal, unchangeable, was contracted to a span, was incomprehensibly made man.
Do you see the great love of God, that Jesus Christ, God immortal, God eternal, would become a man so he could be like us, so he could be one of us, so he could save us? Do you see the love of Jesus that he would do this? When we see Jesus sitting in Martha’s home, we see Jesus in his humiliation. He is still God, he is still upholding all things by the word of his power, he is still fully God, but he is also fully man. Here is the Son of God himself, sitting in a house, with dirt on his feet and sweat on his face, eating food, talking and laughing and crying and teaching. I don’t ever, ever, want to lose the wonder of this.
Jesus’ humiliation offers the challenge that we follow him in humility. Just consider the extent to which Jesus humbled himself by taking on flesh. Just consider all that he laid aside in order to be human, in order to die as a human. If Christ was willing to humble himself to that extent, who are we complain about any measure of humiliation, any measure of humbling? Time and time again God commands us to be humble before God and before men, and in his humiliation, even in sitting there in Martha’s home, Jesus gives us the ultimate model, the ultimate picture, of what this means. He asks us for no more than he has already done.