In our current series we’ve been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism published in 1648. In previous weeks we’ve been looking at how Christ was humbled in order to bring us eternal life. We’ve seen that Christ was humiliated throughout his life on earth and also by his death which involved Judas’ betrayal, the disciples’ desertion, the world’s rejection, the condemnation of Pilate, the torment of his persecutors, his experience of God’s wrath, becoming sin and experiencing pain. This week I want to show that Jesus was humbled by dying a shameful death.
Shameful punishment is an experience we have all known. Shame has been felt when we were punished by our parents for disobedience as children. Shame has been felt when our foolish actions as adults have been held up for others to see. We would all agree that shame is a humbling experience.
Dying on the cross was also a shameful experience. The person was publicly suspended in a painful state for all to see. This public death heightened the shame of their crime and served as a warning to others who were thinking of breaking Roman laws. There was no denying that those who were held up in such a way were being shamed and humiliated for their crimes. There was no place for pride when you were crucified.
This shameful death is the death that Jesus experienced. Matthew records the actions of the soldiers who crucified Jesus: ‘They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS’ (Matthew 27:33-37).
The Bible also records that this crucifixion of Jesus took place near the city, a location of maximum public exposure: ‘Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek’ (John 19:20). Note also the comment that the charge against Christ was translated into multiple languages so as many people as possible could scorn Christ as he died. Person after person would have looked at Christ, read the charge against him and then shaken their heads in disgust. And all Christ could do in response was hang his head in shame. What a humiliating experience.
So why would the Son of God, who never needed to experience such shame, humble himself and endure such a shameful death? Because of our sin we deserve to be humiliated for eternity in hell. But thankfully Jesus takes the eternal humility we deserve so we can have eternal glory instead. This eternal glory comes by trusting that Jesus was humiliated for you, including his death of great shame.
Do you trust in Christ’s humiliation for you so that you will have eternal glory in heaven?