Grab a Shovel

Today’s devotional was featured in Spring Arbor University’s Lent series, which you can read here under the heading “Humility by Jamin Bradley.”

Ancient people believed that the gods created humanity to be slaves that lived to feed them. Humans were a petty creation—just a cog in an oppressive machine that ensured that life for the gods was easy and pleasurable. With this perspective in mind, no god would ever dream of demoting themselves to become a human—and if they ever had to, they would certainly be born as a glorious king or carry some kind of supernatural or super-physical quality.

But the Hebrews told a different story about their God. He didn’t create humans to be slaves, but to be collaborators, born out of the overflow of his love. Together, humans would work with God to cultivate the earth into Heaven. All they had to do along the way was follow one rule: don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But they did.

One might think that this would lead a holy God to destroy sinful humanity, but he instead did something very different: he promised Eve that she would one day have a descendant that would fix things (Genesis 3:15). Christians believe that descendant was Jesus, who revealed himself to be God in human form. 

Yes, the God of gods did what the other gods would have considered unthinkable! As Paul says in Philippians 2:6-7, Jesus, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (ESV). Yes, Jesus was fully God, for he was the full identity of God, but he was also fully man, because he had emptied himself of the kind of God-like things that weren’t compatible with humanity.

And just in case this was not unthinkable enough, the God-man didn’t live his life in luxury like the other gods might have done, but he lived it in humility. Rather than climb his way to the top of society, he dug himself all the way to the bottom. He was born not in a royal palace, but in a feeding trough. His young life was threatened by political leaders and he had to become a refugee. Like a homeless man, Jesus preached that he had nowhere to lay his head. He denied the offers of power grabs that Satan, crowds, and even his own disciples offered him. He spent much of his time ministering to the poor and the marginalized. He was paraded into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey instead of a warhorse. Like a slave, he washed the feet of his disciples. And like many throughout history and into today, he was given a death sentence even though he was innocent. 

When God became man, he took on the difficulties of a poor man. But this wasn’t low enough for the God-man! Though he had already descended from Heaven to earth, Jesus still made his way further down into Hades—the realm of the dead where no sinless man belonged. Perhaps Satan had forgotten this rule when he entered into Judas (John 13:27) to get Jesus killed. Death had always taken care of human threats in the past, so why would this time be any different? 

It was different because death is a punishment for human sin. So when Satan killed the sinless human descendant of Eve, he broke the rules of the cosmos. The humble cross of Jesus was a trojan horse—a bait-and-switch that dealt a powerful blow across the realm of the dead. Jesus then took the keys of death from Satan and left Hades, ascending back to the middle ground of earth to greet his disciples before ascending back to Heaven. God had now filled all things in Jesus Christ.

The path of humility that took Jesus lower and lower was surprisingly the path that took him higher and higher. Therefore, it should be no shock that Jesus constantly calls his disciples to humble themselves all throughout the gospels. It is not an optional way of doing the Christian life. Though humans have always tried to find glory through power and domination, Jesus showed us that the actual road to glory is humility. So during this Holy Week, let’s mirror Christ, grab a shovel, and make ourselves low.

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