Christians are known for being people of the cross—people who rightly focus a great deal of attention on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. But while the cross stands at the very center of the gospel, it does not stand alone. Rather, it is surrounded, as it were, by the wider context of Jesus’s humiliation and exaltation—by all he did before and after he was crucified.
The humiliation and exaltation of Jesus Christ are the twin subjects of Jonty Rhodes’s excellent new book Man of Sorrows, King of Glory. He begins by introducing Christ’s threefold office as prophet, priest, and king since “before we can look at the work of Christ, we must be clear on his identity.” We must be equally careful that we do not inadvertently separate him from his works so we receive what Christ did without understanding we must receive Christ himself. “This is the invitation of the gospel. Not so much ‘Receive these gifts: justification, sanctification, adoption, reconciliation,’ but rather ‘Receive Christ.’”
Having introduced Christ’s threefold office, Rhodes turns to his twofold state: humiliation and exaltation. The structure of the book helpfully shows how he explores his topic. One section is dedicated to the humiliation of Christ and it contains four chapters: one that explains what is meant by “humiliation,” then one that covers each of these topics: the humiliation of Christ as our prophet, the humiliation of Christ as our priest, and the humiliation of Christ as our king. The next section repeats the pattern, except with exaltation instead of humiliation.
Rhodes does a number of things especially well: he makes complex topics accessible even to people without postgraduate degrees in theology; he offers precise positions without becoming pedantic; he presents Christ as especially beautiful and the atonement as especially awe-inspiring; he draws from the very best of Christian authors and theologians; and he shows why a gospel that is focused exclusively on the cross neglects the crucial context of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation. And he does all this in only 150 pages.
I’m glad to say that Man of Sorrows, King of Glory is one of the very best and most enjoyable books I’ve read all year. I cannot recommend it too highly.
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