The Humility of Christ in the Cross and the Manger

I came across this excerpt from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon that connected so well with what I was preaching on in a recent sermon, “Mighty God,” that it caught my attention. Spurgeon was a 19th century preacher in London whose deep and wide-ranging ministry earned him the name “the prince of preachers.” This excerpt is taken from a sermon entitled “No Room for Christ at the Inn” preached December 21, 1862.

The manger and the cross standing at the two extremities of the Saviour’s earthly life seem most fit and congruous the one to the other. He is to wear through life a peasant’s garb; he is to associate with fishermen; the lowly are to be his disciples; the cold mountains are often to be his only bed; he is to say, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head;” nothing, therefore, could be more fitting than that in his season of humiliation, when he laid aside all his glory, and took upon himself the form of a servant, and condescended even to the meanest estate, he should be laid in a manger…

The King of Men who was born in Bethlehem, was not exempted in his infancy from the common calamities of the poor, nay, his lot was even worse than theirs. I think I hear the shepherds comment on the manger-birth, “Ah!” said one to his fellow, “then he will not be like Herod the tyrant; he will remember the manger and feel for the poor; poor helpless infant, I feel a love for him even now, what miserable accommodation this cold world yields its Saviour; it is not a Caesar that is born to-day; he will never trample down our fields with his armies, or slaughter our flocks for his courtiers, he will be the poor man’s friend, the people’s monarch ; according to the words of our shepherd-king, he shall judge the poor of the people; he shall save the children of the needy.” Surely the shepherds, and such as they — the poor of the earth, perceived at once that here was the plebeian king; noble in descent, but still as the Lord hath called him, “one chosen out of the people.” Great Prince of Peace! the manger was thy royal cradle! Therein wast thou presented to all nations as Prince of our race, before whose presence there is neither barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but thou art Lord of all. Kings, your gold and silver would have been lavished on him if ye had known the Lord of Glory, but inasmuch as ye knew him not he was declared with demonstration to be a leader and a witness to the people. The things which are not, under him shall bring to nought the things that are, and the things that are despised which God hath chosen, shall under his leadership break in pieces the might, and pride, and majesty of human grandeur.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “No Room for Christ in the Inn,” December 21, 1862.

Seeing Jesus in Psalm 22: finding hope in darkness

Rembrandt - The Three Crosses

Psalm 22 is one of the most, if not the most, quoted and alluded to psalm in the New Testament. Particularly, Psalm 22 is closely connected with Jesus’ work upon the Cross, especially His exclamation of the first words of the psalm in both Mark and Matthew:

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’). (Matthew 27:46)

When Jesus’ quotes that first phrase of the psalm from the Cross, He is telling His hearers something about His mission not just from that first verse, but in connection with the entire content of Psalm 22. As Bible scholar James Luther Mays says, “Citing the first words of a text was, in the tradition of the time, a way of identifying the entire passage.”[1] Jesus helps us see that Psalm 22 describes His life, ministry, and the gospel message.

At the Cross, Jesus faced humanity’s distance from God, something we have already heard in Jesus’ cry of dereliction, quoting Psalm 22:1, as recorded in both Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46.

At the Cross, Jesus faced opponents, both human & demonic. [2] When Psalm 22:7 says, “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads,” Matthew writes of Jesus on the Cross, “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads” (Matt 27:39; cf. Mark 15:29).

When Psalm 22:15 says, “My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth,” John writes of Jesus on the cross, “so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty’” (John 19:28).

When Psalm 22:18 tells us, “They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment,” Luke writes, “And they divided up his clothes by casting lots” (Luke 23:34; cf. Mark 15:24; Matt 27:35; John 19:23-24).

It is not just the crucifixion that is referenced in Psalm 22, but also the resurrection, where God delivered Jesus from death and won praise from the nations.

When Psalm 22:24 says, “[God] has not hidden his face from the afflicted one but has listened to his cry for help,” the writer to the Hebrews describes Jesus’ resurrection in this way, “[Jesus] offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard” (Hebrews 5:7).

When Psalm 22:27 speaks of the Messiah winning praise from the nations, “all the nations…will turn to the Lord,” Jesus tells His disciples, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8; cf. Matthew 28:18-20).

And when Psalm 22:31 concludes with “He [God] has done it!”, we hear echoes of Jesus’ words at the end of His ordeal upon the Cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

When we read Psalm 22 with our eyes fixed on Jesus, we find that this psalm originally addressing the Israelite king’s deliverance now provides deeper meaning for Jesus as the true Messiah.

In the midst of our challenges, even our suffering and opponents, Psalm 22 shows us that God is aware, God is at work, God is delivering, and God is bringing hope.

 


[1] James Luther Mays, Psalms (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1994), 105.

[2] See other parallels: Ps 22:6 and Matt 27:29; Ps 22:16 and Mark 15:25; John 20:25.

The First Day

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. (Luke 24:1)

the first day:
walking with heavy loads and burdened hearts
to the place His breathless body lay.
every hour seemed so still
since that dark day.

but now, the first day:
their hesitating procession to the tomb
finds the place, but not Him;
and aching emptiness
meets anger’s anxiety.

yet, on the first day
two men send shivers of loud light
mingled with a message:
‘He’s alive like a new day’s dawning!’
and they remember His words.

this first day is the third day
that sends the dark day running.


This is the seventh in a group of seven original poems composed for Holy Week, including:

Joseph’s Offering

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus….With Pilate’s permission he came and took the body away. (John 19:38)

as the crowd dispersed
i came to honor Him.
perhaps it was too late…
but the cost was real for me,
as others from the Sanhedrin
turned their dark looks upon me.
our entourage gathered His limp form
with painful effort from the tree
and wrapped it with care.

standing there, at the Executioner’s workplace,
i couldn’t help but think that
He deserved more than this;
that my present actions were a feeble attempt
to cover my earlier inaction.

Jesus, wrapped in linen and death’s shadow,
seemed like a gift Jerusalem
was not worthy to hold.
so we took Him to the tomb,
with the women following close,
and placed Him gently within
for safe-keeping until the day of the Lord.
but my heart ached within me.


This is the sixth in a group of seven original poems composed for Holy Week, including:

Three Figures

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. (Luke 23:32)

three figures floating above the ground
one with fire in his mouth
rages in desperation against existence
one begs for deliverance
in a strong moment, pleading
with the third for rescue
the last One speaks hope and peace
amidst such hopeless violence
split apart at the place of the Skull
He opens the cosmos wide
with painful grace for all
and welcomes us in


This is the fifth in a group of seven original poems composed for Holy Week, including: