Master Sermon List
He Emptied Himself
by Thomas Goodwin
It is adorably true indeed that the Eternal Son made Himself of no reputation. Yes; but He did far more than that. He did infinitely far more than that. For our salvation, HE EMPTIED HIMSELF. That is to say, the Eternal Son despoiled and depleted Himself of all His divine power and heavenly glory, and was made flesh, and was made sin, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
His greatness He for us abas'd,
For us His glory vail'd;
In human likeness dwelt on earth,
His majesty conceal'd.
What all that divine power and heavenly glory was which the Eternal Son possessed before He emptied Himself neither the tongue nor the pen even of an inspired apostle can ever attain to tell. But there were some things that the Eternal Son performed in the service of His Father before He emptied Himself: some things that come perhaps somewhat more within the range of revelation and within the scope of the human mind. As thus
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him: and without Him was not anything made that was made...For by Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth: visible and invisible, all things were created by Him, and for Him, and by Him all things consist."
But wonderful and glorious as all that is, at the same time it had been better that the Son of God had never created this world of ours at all unless He was prepared to do far more for our world than merely to create it and to sustain it in its created existence. For, whatever any of His Father's other worlds might need and might receive at the Son's almighty hands over and above their first creation and their continual preservation, it was divinely foreseen from eternity-nay, the apostle is bold enough to say that it was divinely foreordained from eternity-that sin should enter this world of ours, and with sin, and as its wages, both death and hell. And thus it was that before the foundations of this world of ours were ever laid, the Eternal Father had already committed it to His Eternal Son that, for our salvation from sin and death and hell, He must, in the fulness of time, empty Himself and take upon Himself the form of a servant, and become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
And thus it was that when the fulness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And thus it came about that He who had created this world of ours descended into it, and made Himself one of His own earthly creatures, and lived all His appointed time on earth in all the emptiness and limitation and dependence and subjection that was involved in His great work which he had undertaken to perform for His Father. For it is wholly true and it is wholly due to Him that it should be told us concerning our Saviour that He made Himself of no reputation. The whole heavens and the whole earth had all resounded with His great reputation as soon as He had finished the formation of the heavens and the earth and all the host of them. On the seventh day of creation the Son of God ended His great work which He had created and made, and He blessed the seventh day and sanctified it. And on that first Sabbath day all the morning stars sang together before Him, and all the sons of God shouted for joy in His presence.
But when the predestinated time for the Son's humiliation and for our salvation came He arose and descended down from His Father's house and left all His heavenly renown and reputation behind Him. And then, as the great prologue has it, He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. How His own received Him, and what entertainment He had at their hands, we read with unspeakable shame and pain on every page of the four Gospels. At the same time all that was no surprise to Him; neither did the reception that He received on this earth take Him at all unawares. From the beginning he had foreseen it all, and had prepared Himself for it all. "Lo, I come. In the volume of the book it is all written of Me." He means that such things as these were written of Him: such awful things as these: "I am a worm, and no man. I am a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn. They shoot out the lip, they shake the head." The Son of God foresaw Himself as in a glass in that awful twenty-second Psalm. Again, this was written, and He had often read it: "He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him." And again, He foresaw that all this also would be written concerning Him, and He had often in anticipation read it.
"Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns and put it on His head. And they put on Him a purple robe, and bowed the knee, and said, Hail! King of the Jews. And they smote Him in His face with their hands." Yes, indeed: the Eternal Son, the Maker of the heavens and the earth, made Himself of no reputation! And that one word, of no reputation, makes us sinful men to stop and think. For, how we all live and labour for a reputation! How we are all puffed up with our reputation when it comes to us! And how we are all cast down when our reputation departs from us.
But how different from all that was our Divine Lord. O reputation-loving men! in all your ambitions remember your Divine Redeemer. And determine to follow Him henceforth in all His footsteps of self-humiliation. And, like Him, always seek the praise and the reputation that come from God and from a good conscience alone.
But to proceed. Such was His self-depletion that, Divine Sovereign and Divine Lawgiver as He was, He took upon Him the form of a servant, and became obedient to all men in all things. And to begin with, He became obedient to Joseph and Mary in all things and at all times. At twelve years old He went down from His first Passover and was subject to them. And that was so because He humbled Himself to come under the law of a true and proper human childhood. Year after year, he lived under the fifth commandment of the Decalogue like any other dutiful son in the house of Israel. So much was this the case, that if you go back and enter Mary's humble home you will see her first-born son making Himself subject to her, and to His brothers and sisters, in everything.
He learned obedience by the things that He suffered every day at all their hands. And if you go back and enter Joseph's toilsome workshop you will see Him who had made all things in heaven and on earth now making Himself obedient in cutting and planing wood, and in all joining and mortising work, like any other obedient apprentice in the workshops of Nazareth. "St Joseph was dead, and Jesus had succeeded to His foster-father's modest business." As Dr. Newman has it: "Our Divine Lord was found of no reputation in this world, whether on the score of rank or of education. It seems almost irreverent to speak of His temporal employment; but it is profitable to remind ourselves that the Son of God Himself was a sort of smith, and made ploughs and cattle yokes." Yes, and all the time He never once hinted at what He might have spoken out but for His absolute and ever-silent humility. He never once said to his fellow-workmen what He had found written concerning Himself in the prophet Isaiah: He so hid all these amazing things in His wholly self-emptied and utterly humble heart.
"He hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance. His own hands hath made all these things." Not that His human hands, born of Mary, had made all these things. No. But without His Divine Hands, begotten of God, not one of all these things had ever been made. Such and so great was His self-emptiness and His submissiveness and His obedience toward all His earthly tutors and governors. And much more was He submissive and obedient in all things toward His Father in heaven. For, never once, as a child, or as a growing youth, or as a grown-up man, never once was He disobedient to the letter or to the spirit of any part of His Father's holy law; never once in thought or word or deed. Never once did His conscience make Him a coward. Never once, for a moment, night nor day, did He lose the light of His Father's countenance. No, never once, from Nazareth to Gethsemane. "This is My well-beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye Him."
"Wherefore God hath also highly exalted Him." His God and Father had seen all that from His Son's first undertaking of all that down to His finishing of all that. His God and Father had kept in His bottle every tear that His Son the Man of Sorrows had shed during the whole of His sojourn in this world of sorrows. Not one sigh of His, not one sob, not one heavenward breath of secret self-surrendering prayer had escaped His Father's ever-open ear. "And He shall be mine," said His Father, "in that day when I make up My jewels." And it was so, and it now is so, and it shall for ever be so. For all the Divine Son's self-emptiness is for ever at an end now. "Father, the hour is come. Glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee. Glorify Thou Me with the glory I had with Thee before the world was, and before I emptied Myself and was made flesh." And it was so. "Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him, and hath set Him again at His own right hand, far above all principality and power and every name that is named. As it was in the beginning, as it is now, and as it shall for ever be, world without end." And all that to the glory of God the Father. All that to His glory who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to death, even the death of the cross.
Yes, my believing brethren, yes. God's great love accounts for it all. God's everlasting love explains it all. God is love, and that is the true explanation and the sufficient key to it all. Given that God is love, and that God's Eternal Son is God with His Father, and is ever in His Father's bosom given all that, and all the rest follows as by a Divine necessity. Yes, my loving brethren, you have the true secret and the full explanation of the self-emptying and the humiliation of the cross in your own loving hearts. All you who are born of God, all you who truly love God and one another, all you who greatly love and are greatly loved-in all that you possess in your own bosoms the true explanation and the true key to the whole mystery of redemption, the explanation and the key to that love which passes all explanation and every key. And, after the glory of God, it is to kindle ever afresh the life of a true brotherly love in our hearts that this apostle so carries our hearts captive to the astounding love of Christ toward us.
It is to banish for ever from among us all envy of one another, all jealousy of one another, all suspicion of one another, and all strife as to who shall be counted the greatest. It is to make all self-seeking and all vain-glory to be for ever impossible among all Christian men. It is to make us to look not at our own things alone, but every man to look on the honour, and the prosperity, and the whole happiness of other men also. It is on the ground of the amazing and all-conquering love of Christ that the apostle reasons with us, and says to us: "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ: if any comfort of love: if any fellowship of the Spirit: if any bowels and mercies: be ye like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife and vain-glory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Do all things without murmurings and disputings, that ye may be blameless and harmless: the sons of God without rebuke." In one word, and in a word beyond which even an inspired apostle cannot go: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who emptied Himself and humbled Himself even to the death of the cross."