The Cross is Big Enough For Everything But Your Ego

Originally published here by FAI Mission.  

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.[1]

There is perhaps no greater cosmic controversy—no two things more diametrically opposed—than pride and humility. Even before the cornerstones of the earth were laid,[2] an anointed cherub named Lucifer[3] said in his heart, “I will make myself like the Most High,”[4] and when the seed of that secret pride took root in open rebellion against El Elyon,[5] it became the origin of every evil thing, a curse on all creation.

Fortunately, God is not helpless in the face of such haughtiness or it subsequent destruction. Even when Eve had that ancient serpent’s consuming desire to be like God,[6] the LORD provided an annulment clause for her contract with death: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”[7] How would God stop this spiraling chaos of vain creatures rejecting their Creator? The LORD’s elegant solution is to crush the Prideful One—this devourer and destroyer of worlds—under the heel of Pride’s opposite: Jesus, the Suffering Servant.[8]

It Shall Not Be So Among You

Though Jesus is the ultimate example of servanthood and humility, His disciples often debated who among them was the greatest during his earthly ministry.[9] They assumed that in the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom, they would be rewarded as “early adopters,” and allegiance with Jesus was merely a means to their personal glorification. When such topics arose, Jesus immediately addressed their system of selfish ambition (ironically indistinguishable from the occupying Roman’s system) by comparing it with the principles of God’s Kingdom:

“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”[10]

When His disciples sought position and power, Jesus told them they did not know what they were asking. “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”[11] That is, if you desire exaltation, will you humble yourself and suffer with Me? Will you join Me in crucifixion?  It wasn’t until after the consummation of the cross that the disciples understood that it was the very meekness and humility of their Lord that gave Him the greatest triumph, and would ultimately free them from serving Satan and themselves. 

Who is the Greatest?

If anyone has a right to be prideful, surely it is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity.  Jesus Christ was before all things,[12] created all things,[13] and sustains all things.[14] All authority in heaven and on earth have been given to this divine heir of King David.[15] Hell and the grave can’t imprison this Son of Man, because He has the keys to their front gates.[16] He is the preeminent glorious King, the image of the invisible God.[17]

And yet, Jesus did not consider equality with God the Father something to be grasped. Though He is God,[18] He humbled Himself by submitting to the point of death.[19] In the peacemaking blood of His cross, in the humiliation of His crucifixion, Jesus laid down His life in obedience to His Father. This act of humility displayed His worthiness to be exalted to the highest place. By becoming a servant of all, Jesus received the name above every other name.

For the Joy Set Before Him

This pattern in Jesus’ life is a perfect example of how God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.[20] Even in the midst of His suffering and humiliation, the Messiah knew that, if he endured, he would be seated at the right hand of the throne of God.[21] This lamb that was slain would receive the reward of His suffering,[22] because He is worthy of power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.[23] In the famous Beatitudes, the first group that Jesus blessed is “the poor in spirit” who will be rewarded by “inheriting the kingdom of heaven.”[24] Paul, an apostle of Christ, also makes the same connection in his letter to the Hebrews by referencing Moses: “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”[25]

Though “looking to the reward” could appear to be mercenary and not a “pure motive” for humility, it is actually a part of the teaching and strategy of God. While He is molding us in His image, as we gaze on the work of his cross and realize that we have nothing to commend us but his blood. As we suffer in this present evil age, “we look to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come” where those who humbled themselves will be exalted and where the meek will be rewarded in God’s just economy.[26]

Let us then worship and acknowledge our utter dependence on our sovereign Lord. Let us not be like Satan, who has lost his position, place, and possessions—and who will suffer eternally in a lake of fire.[27] Let us follow in Jesus’ footsteps—drink from His cup, and be baptized in His baptism—fully embracing the inverse physics of his upside-down kingdom. Let us have faith in His promises to reward those who humble themselves.

Let us survey the wondrous cross, assess ourselves in light of the humility of the Prince of Glory, and pour contempt on all our pride. 

[1] This is the first stanza of the hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Isaac Watts.

[2] Job 38:6-7

[3] Ezekiel 28:14

[4] Isaiah 14:12-14

[5] Name of God that is translated, “Most High.” It literally means “possessor of heaven and earth.”

[6] Genesis 3:4-6

[7] Genesis 3:15

[8] Isaiah 53

[9] Mark 9:33-37

[10] Matthew 20:25-28; emphasis mine

[11] Mark 10:37-39

[12] John 1:1, 17:5; Revelation 22:13

[13] John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Revelation 3:14

[14] Hebrews 1:3

[15] Isaiah 9:7; Jeremiah 23:5; Matthew 8:27; 1 Peter 3:22

[16] Romans 6:9; Acts 2:27-31; Revelation 1:18

[17] Colossians 1:15-18

[18] John 5:18; John 10:30

[19] Philippians 2:6-8

[20] Proverbs 3:34

[21] Hebrews 12:2

[22] This cry is associated with the Moravian missions movement in the 1700s.

[23] Revelation 5:12

[24] Matthew 5:3-11

[25] Hebrews 11:26

[26] From the Nicene Creed

[27] Revelation 20:15

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