Why should we study the subject of Christ coming into our world as a human being at this point? Because just about everything we need to know about salvation and righteousness by faith can be learned by a careful study of the life of Christ. Most of the misunderstandings about how a person is saved can be easily cleared up by studying how Christ came into our world, how He lived on a day-to-day basis, and how He met the temptations of Satan.
So we will study the most important subject in the world in the next four lessons. What kind of a man was Jesus? What nature did He take? How was He like us, and how was He different from us? Can we really live like He did, or is that totally impossible for us?
The first thing we must understand about Jesus is that He did not begin life as a baby in Bethlehem. This text tells us that Jesus did not have to seek for equality with God, as Lucifer tried to do. For Lucifer it was robbery, but for Jesus it was His by right. John 1:1 tells us that "the Word was God." If Jesus had not been fully God, His sacrifice on Calvary would have been of no more value than a martyr's death. He could not have saved any soul from condemnation and death.
The second thing we must understand about Jesus is that He became a real human being. He not only came into our world, but He became a man who could experience life just as we all experience it. The original Greek word for the phrase, "made himself of no reputation," really means "emptied himself." In order to become a man, Jesus must empty Himself of certain divine qualities which He had exercised freely in His previous existence as God.
The most amazing thing we learn about the Incarnation is that Jesus laid aside His omnipotence when He became a man. If Jesus was truly going to live as a man and act as a man, He could not act as an all-powerful God. He must live and act in the only was that it is possible for normal human beings to live. Whatever He did on earth, He did in the same way that we all do it. Since we do not have special powers over nature and life itself, He relinquished His powers in order to experience life just as we do.
This is one of the most amazing statements in the Bible. First, Jesus tells us that the works He performed were not done by His own power or ability. He depended on the Father for His power, just as we can do. Jesus voluntarily suspended the exercise of His own power so He could show us what power is within the reach of all human beings. Second, Jesus tells us that if we believe in Him we can do the same works that He did--and even more! The proof of this promise can be seen in the many miracles performed by normal human beings throughout the Bible record. Moses and Elisha and Peter and Paul had no more power than any human being, but God performed remarkable miracles through them.
To grow in wisdom, one must be lacking in wisdom and must learn. Therefore Jesus, as a man, could not have been omniscient, knowing all things, or learning would have been impossible. "The very words which He Himself had spoken to Moses for Israel He was now taught at His mother's knee....He gained knowledge as we may do....He who had made all things studied the lessons which His own hand had written in earth and sea and sky." The Desire of Ages, p. 70.
Because no human being has a memory of previous existence, Jesus came to live in the same way, without knowledge of the past. Gradually He learned more about God and salvation. Gradually He became aware of who He was and what His mission was. If Jesus would have had His previous existence to rely on in moments of temptation, then His daily living and dealing with human problems would have been totally different from our situation.
In this text Jesus is speaking of His second coming. While He was on earth, He did not know when He would be coming back, because the Father had not revealed that to Him. During His life on earth, Jesus did not know the future, except as the Father revealed the future to Him. Once again, since none of us know what the future holds, Jesus came to live under the same conditions and knowledge that we all must live under.
Jesus had to leave behind the majestic glory which was His as the Creator in order for human beings to exist in His presence. When people looked at Him, they saw nothing physically unusual about Him. If they were to follow Him, it would have to be because of His teachings, not His appearance.
Conclusion: In summary, Jesus laid aside several aspects of His deity. He chose not to use those aspects of His deity which set Him apart as God. He would live as a man among men. It was the man Jesus who made decisions and who met life's problems. That is the tremendous risk of the Incarnation.
While it is correct to say that Jesus did not cease to be God when He became man, Jesus laid aside those attributes by which He functioned as God, so that He could live as a man. It is at this point that the wonder of the Incarnation baffles our understanding and humbles our pride. While we are always seeking to be more than who we are, Jesus laid aside most of what He was to take our form. Jesus truly did "empty Himself," so that He could be like me! He experienced our weakness and natural inabilities. The great Creator became a limited human being, having to depend totally on His Father for everything He did.
What a tremendous gift God has given us in Jesus! Can we respond to this gift by giving Him our weaknesses and inabilities? He is just as willing to give us power and knowledge as His Father was willing to give these gifts to His Son.
Does Jesus great gift to us inspire you to surrender your heart to Him?