If humility is a hallmark feature of love, then Jesus’ “origin story” on earth undoubtedly demonstrates God’s amazing love for humanity. In this passage, Luke records for us a quiet, no-frills recapitulation of Jesus’ arrival into the world. Viewed by human standards, it is a total disservice for the King of Glory2, the preeminent one3, the Lion of Judah4 to come so discreetly into the flesh. But God would have it so, for it is because of Jesus’ humility that He would be obedient to death on a cross for the salvation of the whole world.5 From Luke 2:1-7, we see at least three displays of Jesus’ humility demonstrating His love for us so that we too might take His example and love our neighbours.
First, we read that the King of Glory subjected Himself to be “counted” in the census ordered by Caesar Augustus (v.1). The emperor’s census was both practical (for taxation) and egotistical in the way it would demonstrate his rule over “all the world.” And yet it was God’s will for King Jesus, who in actual fact rules “all the world” and the heavens, to be reduced to another statistic under Caesar’s dominion. King Jesus’ emptying of Himself culminated in His “[pouring] out His soul to death and [being] numbered with the transgressors.”6 As opposed to Caesar’s census to display his ascendency and might, Jesus was censused to display His willingness to be numbered with and die as a human for our sake.
Next, we see that Jesus, the preeminent one, and His family hailed from the “good-for-nothing” town of Nazareth (v.4).7 Why would God have Jesus spend almost thirty years of His earthly life in obscurity, learning the lowly trade of carpentry and being known as “Joseph’s son”?8 Should not Jesus—the famed Messiah—hail from the upper echelons of Jerusalem, be educated in the highest degree, and be shrouded with pomp and fanfare? But the humility of Jesus would not allow for this. Though preeminent in all aspects of eminence, His presentation was of “no beauty or majesty” so that only the “poor in spirit” and the “meek” could access Him and become the “possessors of the kingdom of heaven” and “inheritors of the earth.”9,10 It is because of His humility that He pours out grace, rest, and love to the humble, broken, and destitute.
Finally, we come upon the nativity scene—the Lion of Judah lying in the manger of stable animals (v.7). What humility for the mighty Lion of Judah who sustained everything by the power of His word to become a helpless babe, dependent on his mother for sustenance Himself! But Jesus loved us this much— to come as a fragile infant—and loved us even more when He died on the cross for our sins.11 During Jesus’ incarnation, we see His humility come full circle: for if His earthly origin started with humility, His earthly life would have to end there as well. Let us never forget the love of God displayed in the beautiful juxtaposition of the Lion of Judah laying in the feeding trough of lambs only to later be Himself willingly devoured by the wrath of God as the Lamb of God sacrificed to purchase our freedom.12
The love of God is clearly displayed for us in Jesus’ humility. It is in humility that He would become human, weak and subject to suffering and death, but then be able to sympathize with our weakness and suffering.13 It is through humility that He would best meet and give grace to the humble and bring opposition to the proud.14 It is because of humility that He would ultimately give up His life for us to demonstrate great love.15 During this advent season may we remember, emulate, and glorify Jesus, the infant King, who truly came to us in the most humble of ways.
1 - 1 Corinthians 13:4 / 2 - Psalm 24:10 / 3 - Colossians 1:18 / 4 - Revelation 5:5 / 5 - Philippians 2:8 / 6 - Isaiah 53:12 / 7 - John 1:46 / 8 - Luke 4:22 / 9 - Isaiah 53:2 / 10 - Matthew 5:3,5 / 11 - Romans 5:8 / 12 - Revelation 5:5-6; Isaiah 53:7 / 13 - Hebrew 4:15 / 14 - James 4:6 / 15 - John 15:13