Everything about the circumstances of the coming of Christ into the world was counterintuitive. We tend to pride ourselves on the fact that we know this. However, the more we bring the pieces together into focus, the more astonishing it all becomes. Consider the following counterintuitive details surrounding the birth of Jesus:
The One who dwelt in inexpressible light with His Father and the Spirit, from all eternity, left that eternal glory to become man in the womb of a young, poor Jewish virgin (Luke 1:34). The One who rules and reigns as the King of Kings was not born in Rome, Greece, or Jerusalem (i.e., centers of power, status, and influence) but in the small and insignificant town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). He who sits enthroned in the heavens, was laid in an animal feeding trough (Luke 2:7, 12, 16). He who brought the stars into existence, calling each one by name, went nameless during the first week of His incarnate life (Luke 2:21). The One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, was born to a mother who was so poor that she didn’t have enough to offer the proper sacrifice for His consecration (Leviticus 5:7; Luke 2:24). On the eighth day, the infinitely holy One received a covenant sign that indicated His need for a blood judgment to cleanse sinful corruption and impurity–as the substitutionary sin-bearer, though He Himself was without sin (Luke 2:21). He who was the long awaited King of Israel was welcomed only by a handful of despised shepherds and traveling Gentiles at His birth (Matt. 2:2; Luke 2:15).
Of course, the counterintuitive circumstances of the coming of Christ into the world also serve to highlight the glory of His divine being. The eighteenth century Scottish theologian, John Maclaurin, captured the juxtaposition of the base humiliation and exalted glory of Christ throughout His life in his sermon, “Glorying in the Cross of Christ.” He wrote,
“His birth was mean on earth below, but it was celebrated with hallelujahs by the heavenly host in the air above; he had a poor lodging, but a star lighted visitants to it from distant countries. Never prince had such visitants so conducted.
He had not the magnificent equipage that other kings have, but he was attended with multitudes of patients, seeking and obtaining healing of soul and body; that was more true greatness than if he had been attended with crowds of princes: he made the dumb that attended him sing his praises, and the lame to leap for joy, the deaf to hear his wonders, and the blind to see his glory. He had no guard of soldiers, nor magnificent retinue of servants; but, as the centurion, that had both, acknowledged, health and sickness, life and death, took orders from him; even the winds and storms, which no earthly power can control, obeyed him; and death and the grave durst not refuse to deliver up their prey when he demanded it. He did not walk upon tapestry; but, when he walked on the sea, the waters supported him: all parts of the creation, excepting sinful men, honored him as their Creator.
He kept no treasure; but, when he had occasion for money, the sea sent it to him in the mouth of a fish. He had no barns, nor corn-fields; but, when he inclined to make a feast, a few loaves covered a sufficient table for many thousands. None of all the monarchs of the world ever gave such entertainment. By these and many such things, the Redeemer’s glory shone through his meanness, in the several parts of his life.”1
Maclaurin then contrasted the counterintuitive circumstances surrounding the death of Christ with the glory that was His by right of His deity. He wrote,
“Nor was it wholly clouded at his death; he had not indeed that fantastic equipage of sorrow that other great persons have on such occasions; but the frame of nature solemnized the death of its Author; heaven and earth were mourners; the sun was clad in black; and, if the inhabitants of the earth were unmoved, the earth itself trembled under the awful load; there were few to pay the Jewish compliment of rending their garments, but the rocks were not so insensible; they rent their bowels; he had not a grave of his own, but other men’s graves opened to him. Death and the grave might be proud of such a tenant in their territories; but he came not there as a subject, but as an invader—a conqueror; it was then the King of Terrors lost his sting, and on the third day the Prince of Life triumphed over him, spoiling death and the grave. But this last particular belongs to Christ’s exaltation; the other instances show a part of the glory of his humiliation, but it is a small part of it.”2
In these and so many other ways, the coming of the Son of God into this fallen world for the salvation of His people occurred in the most counterintuitive way possible. If Jesus came after the expectations and desires of sinful men and women, He would have come in a display of pomp and power that leant itself to human wisdom and pride. Instead, He came in weakness, poverty, obscurity, and ignominy. When, by faith, we receive Him as the eternal Son of God, though veiled in the weakness of flesh and set in the context of these counterintuitive circumstances, we have our eyes opened to see the wisdom of God at work.
1. John Maclaurin, Glorying in the Cross of Christ (New York: Ansen D.F. Rudolph, 1864) pp. 25-27
2. Ibid., pp. 27-28