And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7NKJV
Question 47 of the Larger Catechism, asks, “How did Christ humble himself in his conception and birth?” It gives the answer, “Christ humbled himself in his conception and birth, in that, being from all eternity the Son of God, in the bosom of the Father, he was pleased in the fulness of time to become the son of man, made of a woman of low estate, and to be born of her; with divers circumstances of more than ordinary abasement.” Last week we looked at Christ’s humiliation throughout His entire life on earth. This week we consider in particular His lowly birth and poor family.
Christ deserved to enter this life in all the pomp and splendor that the art and strength of man could devise. He is the savior of the race; the one who defeated Satan, fulfilled the terms of the covenant. He earned everlasting life by His perfect righteousness and pleased the Father in our place. The salvation of every man is solely due to Him alone. His birth, having been clearly and repeatedly prophesied and announced, should have been accompanied by the greatest of celebrations. But the state of the human race and the nature of the work that Jesus was sent to accomplish precluded that kind of event from taking place. Similarly, the birth of mankind’s greatest king did not result in the elevation of His family to the highest honor, but in fact quite the opposite.
First, their reputation suffered. Upon hearing of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph was going to put her away as an adulteress. He did not believe the virgin conception until an angel confirmed it to him (Matt. 1:19-20). Second, they were rejected by men. When Christ was born, there was no room for Him in any human abode, and thus His first crib was an animal’s feeding trough (Luke 2:7). Third, they were very poor. It is apparent from Luke 2:24 that Mary and Joseph could not afford the lamb prescribed by Lev. 12:6-7 for her cleansing from the blood-flow of birth. So she had to offer the least expensive offering allowed by the law – the two birds of Lev. 12:8. Fourth, they were constantly misunderstood. Shortly after Jesus’ birth, His parents were presented with expensive gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Yet this honor did not come from His people, who, having truly understood who He was, were faithfully seeking to honor Him as the long awaited Messiah, but it came from pagan sorcerers who had a confused notion of who He was and why He came (Matt. 2:1-2). Fifth, they were persecuted. When His own people learned of His birth, their king sought to kill Him forcing His parents to flee to pagan Egypt where He lived as a foreigner outside of the land of promise (Matt. 2:3-20). Accordingly, rather than rejoicing, His birth brought sorrow and death to many of His people (Matt. 2:16-18). Finally, even after Herod’s death, His earthly father was afraid to take Him to the city of kings – His inheritance as the family of David: Bethlehem of Judea – but instead took Him to be raised in the notorious city of Nazareth, where He was given the shameful epithet, “Nazarene,” (Matt. 3:22-23).
Furthermore, the house of David – the line of kings from which Jesus descended and of which He was the rightful heir to the throne – had fallen into its lowest point of dishonor in its one thousand year history. Jesus was not shown any honor due to His family, nor could He even divulge the true location of His birth (the promised birthplace of the Messiah in Micah 5:2), or of His actually being the messiah throughout His lifetime, on account of the unbelief of the people and their perversion of the Scriptures’ promise of the messiah. Thus, in order to accomplish the will of His Father, Jesus was forced to keep His messianic identity a secret (Matt. 16:20; Mark 8:30; Luke 9:21; etc.). Think of it, the most honored and glorious person that could ever be, willingly gave up all of the tribute He deserved, even to the point of having nowhere to lay His head (Luke 9:58). These are just some of the degradations that Jesus willingly entered into in order to save wretched sinners like you and me! May God grant that we would remember the enormity of the honor that He declined to demand the next time someone slights us the miniscule respect that we deserve. And may we find our greatest honor in sharing just the smallest portion of His humility!