The Glorious Life & Death of Jesus Christ
December 1, 2009 - The Lord Jesus Christ was in every way fit to fulfill His office as our Savior. But the role required three stages of Him. He revealed His glory in different measures as He took our nature as His own, humbled Himself to the point of death on the cross and rose again to be seated at God’s right hand.
By John Owen
The Glory of Christ as Our Mediator
Jesus Christ is God and man in one and the same Person. There are in His one Person two distinct natures: the one being eternal, infinite, immense, almighty, the form and essence of God; the other, having a beginning in time, finite, limited, confined to a certain place. This is our nature, which He took on Himself when He “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).
The Apostle Paul said, “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”
(1 Timothy 2:5). The difference between God and man was caused by our sin and apostasy from Him, and it could result in nothing but the utter ruin of humanity. A mediator was needed or mankind would cease forever. This mediator could not be God. A mediator represents multiple parties, and God was one of the parties (Cf. Galatians 3:20).
As for created beings, there was none in Heaven or Earth able to undertake this office. For “if one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the Lord, who will intercede for him?” (1 Samuel 2:25). By assuming our human nature into union with His divine nature, Jesus Christ became in every way fit to assume the office of mediator.
In Christ’s assumption of our nature as His own, we see the highest evidence of God’s care toward mankind. He who was eternally in the form of God—equally participant of the same divine nature with God the Father—so humbled Himself in this assumption of our nature as to make Himself of no reputation in this world. It is with reference to this that a great promise concerning Christ is given to the church: “He will be as a sanctuary” (Isaiah 8:14). He is an assured refuge to all who go to Him. To sin-distressed souls, He is a refuge in all spiritual distresses and sorrows. Are we perplexed with temptations? Are we bowed down under the oppression of any spiritual adversary? One view of the glory of Christ is able to support us and relieve us.
What will He not do for us—He who thus emptied and humbled Himself, who so infinitely lowered Himself from His glory in the assumption of human nature to become the mediator on our behalf—will He not relieve us in all our distresses? Will He not do all we stand in need of that we may be eternally saved?
Nor have we any ground to doubt His power, for in becoming a man, He lost none of His power as God omnipotent.
The Glory in Christ’s Death
The glory of Christ was also displayed when He suffered as our Savior. Victory, success and triumph with great glory belonged to this role, but first there were sufferings required of Him. “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26).
We might here look on Him as under the weight of the wrath of God and the curse of the law, taking on Himself and His whole soul the utmost of evil that God had ever threatened to sin or sinners. We might look upon Him fighting against all the powers of darkness, the rage and madness of men, suffering in His soul, His body, His name, His reputation, His goods, His life. We might look on Him praying, weeping, crying out, bleeding, dying—in all things making His soul an offering for sin.
What shall we say to these things? That God spared not His only Son, but gave Him up unto death (Romans 8:32) and all the evils included in it, for such poor, lost sinners as we were; that for our sakes the eternal Son of God should submit Himself to all the evils that our natures are liable to, and all that our sins had deserved, that we might be delivered!
How glorious is the Lord Christ on this account in the eye of believers! When Adam had sinned—thereby eternally ruining himself and all posterity—he stood ashamed, trembling, as one ready to perish forever under the displeasure of God. Death was what he deserved, and immediate death is what he looked for.
In this state the Lord Christ comes to him and says, “Poor creature! How woeful is your condition! What is become of the beauty, of the glory of that image of God in which you were created? How have you taken on yourself the monstrous shape and image of Satan? Eternal distress lies at the door. But yet look up once more, and behold Me. Come forth from your vain shelter, your hiding place. I will put Myself into your condition and will undergo and bear that burden of guilt and punishment that would sink you eternally into the bottom of hell.” To the same purpose He speaks to convinced sinners, in the invitation He gives them to come to Him.
Thus is the Lord Christ set forth in the Gospel, crucified before our eyes (Galatians 3:1) in the representation that is made of His glory, in the sufferings He underwent to fulfill the task He had undertaken. Let us, then, behold Him as poor, despised, persecuted, reproached, reviled, hanged on a tree—in all, laboring under the wrath of God due to our sins.
What glory is in these things? Are not these the things which caused Jews and Gentiles to stumble and take offense at—those wherein He was appointed to be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense? The apostle declares that in the wisdom of the world it was considered foolish to look for help and deliverance by the miseries of another—to look for life by His death (1 Corinthians 1).
But even on the account of these things Christ is honorable, glorious and precious in the sight of those who believe (1 Peter 2:6-7). For even in this He was “the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).
The Glory of the Resurrected Christ
Christ’s resurrection is where all other parts of His glory are revealed. While He was in the world, all the instances of His glory before had a veil drawn over them. Most people saw nothing of it, and the best saw it only obscurely. On the day when we shall behold this glory, we shall see Him as He is.
This is the glory that the Father granted to Him before the foundation of the world and with which He was invested upon His ascension. He did not leave it behind while He was in the world, but He laid aside the direct evidence and declaration of it until He was “declared to be the Son of God with power,” by the resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4).
When the sun is under a total eclipse, it loses nothing of its native beauty, light and glory. Yet it appears to us as a dark, useless meteor. When it frees itself from the lunar interruption, it again manifests its native light and glory. So it was with the divine nature of Christ. He veiled His glory by assuming our nature as His own and taking the “form of a servant,” a person of mean and low degree.
But now this temporary eclipse is past, and His glory shines forth in the infinite luster and beauty that belong to the exaltation of His person. And when those who saw Him on earth as a poor, sorrowful, persecuted man, dying on the cross, came to see Him in all the infinite, uncreated glories of the divine nature, it could not but fill their souls with transcendent joy and admiration. This is one reason His prayer for these followers while He was on earth was that they might be where He is to behold His glory; for He knew what unspeakable satisfaction it would be to them forevermore.
The Apostle Peter told the Jews that the same Jesus, whom they slew and hanged on a tree, God had exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior to give repentance to Israel, and the forgiveness of sins (see Acts 5:30-31). If we place any value on His love, if we have any concern in what He has done for and suffered for the church, we cannot but rejoice in His present state and glory.
Let the world rage while it pleases; let it set itself with all its power and craft against everything of Christ. We have this to support us and to oppose all their attempts—what Jesus says of Himself: “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:17-18).
Blessed Jesus! We can add nothing to You, nothing to Your glory; but it is a joy of heart to us that You are so gloriously exalted at the right hand of God. We long more fully and clearly to behold that glory, according to Your prayer and promise.
John Owen (1617-1683): Called the greatest of Puritan theologians, John Owen was an English pastor, scholar and author, as well as vice-chancellor of Oxford University and dean of Christ Church, Oxford.