Tuesday, 28 August 2012

A life completely dedicated to our good - Paolo Castellina

This is an English version of Revd. Paolo Castellina's meditation (in Italian) today. I used Google Translate (and did a bit of "tidying").  He is looking at a catechism and expanding on it.
Question 48: How did Christ humble himself in his life? 
Answer: Christ humbled himself in his life, by subjecting himself to the law, which he perfectly fulfilled; and by conflicting with the indignities of the world, temptations of Satan, and infirmities in his flesh, whether common to the nature of man, or particularly accompanying that his low condition. [Westminster Larger Catechism Q/A 48).
We normally think of "the humiliation of Jesus" as the way he was arrested, tortured and put to death on the cross, not thinking enough about how much the life of Jesus was characterized by humiliation, voluntarily accepted. Let's look at some sections based on the catechism:

1. A life spent serving. "... Emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness" (Philippians 2:7). The earthly life of Jesus can certainly be considered a voluntary "decline" or "fall" to the role of a servant, in the sense to choosing a way of life dedicated the service of others. 

We look at this abasement, aware of divine identity of Jesus, but also even if we thought of Him as a ordinary man, we see it as His choice to leave the "normal" life (home, family, profession) and devote himself completely to others, especially those most in need : the despised, the marginalized for their relief and redemption.  

This is exemplified in the famous Gospel story of the washing of the feet. Jesus, surprising not just his disciples, replaces the typical role of the slave then washing the feet of the guests before dinner. "... He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments and took a towel, wrapped it. Then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel with which was girded ... You call me Master and Lord: and ye say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. Indeed I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done it myself. " (John 13:4-5,12-15). 

God, in Christ, not only "comes down" to look at the human condition, but "gets down" and "gets his hands dirty","Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; He seats them with princes, with the princes of their people " (Psalm 113:5-7). A dishonour? From petty and selfish human point of view, yes, but a high honour to us for God to "drop in"!

2. He submits to the temptations of Satan. The temptations of Satan are a humiliation for our Saviour because being tempted by Satan is an insult to His holy character. Jesus would have nothing to do with Satan. In fact, "the prince of this world. He cannot do anything against me" (John 14:30). Satan, in fact, not only is evil and deceptive, but also in rebellion against God's will. Yet, the Lord of glory came and was willing to be tempted by the most vile and rebellious creature in the Universe. He resists him and thus affirms the moral superiority of the purpose and methods of God "For we have not a high priest who can not sympathize with our weaknesses, for he was tempted like us in all things, without sin "(Hebrews 4:15).

3. He accept the infirmities of human nature. The Lord Jesus Christ was not physically a "superman", invincible and unassailable. He was probably stronger and more resilient than average (we see this often in the stories of the Gospels) but not because he was special. As a man Jesus was not immune to all the health problems by which we are all afflicted. For "infirmity of the flesh" must be understood as fatigue, hunger, thirst, poverty, "not having a place to lay his head." "Jesus said to him," The foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head '"(Matthew 8:20). He was definitely "acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3).

4. Affected by the infamy of this world. The prophecy of Isaiah tells us how Christ was also despised, abandoned, despised: "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, equal to the one before whom men hide their faces, he was despised...." Jesus accepts, in this world, the fate of being misunderstood and criticized even by his relatives, being opposed by the envious and the wicked, even betrayed by false friends.  He also accepts having to endure the unbelief, stupidity and inconsistencies of his disciples. Without a position of power, he had no "friends in high places" to defend him from bullies, the arrogant, the slapping and spitting .. "I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I did not hide my face from shame and spitting" (Isaiah 50:6). He accepted this - and more - without reacting, without insulting those who offended Him. To His disciples He says, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls" (Matthew 11:29).

There is also, however, an important theological aspect of the humiliation of Jesus in your life.

5. A life lived by the Law. Christ had to submit to the law which God had established for human beings in order to fulfill it, as "our representative". He had to make his life fit the will of God expressed in the law perfect obedience, that Adam had failed to do. Christ as the second Adam, had to do it successfully in order that justice could be accredited to us. Christ, therefore, perfectly fulfills the law of God and His obedience is both positive and negative: it does not break any command. He reads and executes all that the law requires. Under the terms stipulated by the covenant of grace, established between Him and the Father from all eternity, before the creation of the world, Christ submits to God's law (both moral and ceremonial) voluntarily deciding to become man. Submitting to the law, Christ is considered "a humiliation" because by nature God is above the law (though He is its author). God is not obliged to submit to the law but, in keeping with his character, he honours its, by pointing out the sum of goodness.Considering this "humiliation" of the Savior during His life on earth, we cannot help but express our gratitude to the One who for us has addressed these afflictions and hardships. We should also resist the temptation to discouragement and the despair when we face tough times in our earthly pilgrimage, reminding us that our Savior, the Lord of glory, had to endure much more trouble, for His great love for us.  

What we can learn is that as His disciples, we must follow such a master. His is a life spent serving, resisting temptation, learning from human infirmities, accepting "infamy", honoring the law of God throughout.

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