The incomparable Christ
Ah, Shakespeare! What a wordsmith; such wondrous turns of phrase. I am sure he could have talked his way into or out of any situation. Hear him as he woos a fair maiden:
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath far too short a date:
Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d:
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or natures changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Wow! I wonder who he was thinking of. Anne Hathaway perhaps? Whoever it was, it must be said, he overstated the case. No woman is worth such words. If it was Anne, she has dimmed, faded, and been trimmed – and she is now walking in death’s shade.
Who is worthy of such praise?
There is only one person whose worth we can never overstate – He is the Darling of eternity; Jesus Christ. No preacher should be able to preach of Him in calm measured tones; no Christian should be unmoved by thoughts of Him. We can exaggerate on many things and about any one person; but never can we say overmuch about Jesus of Nazareth.
Napoleon Bonaparte would put many modern Christians to shame as he looks to describe the awesome person he had read of in the gospels; here is an excerpt:
Everything in Christ astonishes me. His spirit overawes me, and his will confounds me. Between him and whoever else in the world, there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by himself… I search in vain in history to find the similar to Jesus Christ, or anything which can approach the gospel. Neither history nor humanity, nor the ages, nor nature, offer me anything with which I am able to compare it or explain it. Here everything is extraordinary.
Napolean, not the most renowned of evangelical men, but he was astonished, overawed and confounded by Jesus. What do you feel towards Him? When did you last really think of Him, or on Him, or about Him? What can we compare Christ to? Nothing and nobody says Napoleon. He is truly incomparable!
The men used of the Spirit of God to write the Bible grapple with the problem of expressing the wonder of Christ. Solomon is perhaps the ‘Shakespeare of the Old Testament’ and in his book of Songs writes most gloriously of his love for the eternal Christ but human language fails even here. In the New Testament, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews is concerned that Christians may be discouraged under persecutions and caused to drift away. To counter this, he exalts and points to Jesus Christ. The writer compares Him to ‘all comers’ – to angels, prophets, Moses, Aaron and High Priests but Jesus exceeds them all, by an infinite distance.
Why is He worthy of such praise?
Why is this the case? Well, the very essence of His being leads us inevitably to this conclusion. He is the eternal Person of God the Son. One in essential essence with the Father and the Spirit, yet distinct in His Person. He is eternal (timeless), simple in His essence (pure eternal Spirit), awesome in His perfections (holiness, purity, light, fire), mighty in His works (creating and sustaining the universe), good in all His ways (merciful, faithful, loving and kind) and masterly in all His acts (knowledge and wisdom). But according to the eternal plan, worked with the Father and the Spirit, 2,000 years ago the eternal Son of God assumed humanity by being united with our flesh and our nature in the Person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Now, here the mind boggles. Paul the great apostle, in considering this is left floundering and can only say, ‘Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body’ (1 Tim. 3:16).
So, here, as of around 4BC, we have the eternal Son (without any change in His deity), taking to Himself humanity, body and soul (without the inclusion of any of mankind’s inherent sin from Adam’s rebellion), and we now have the Person of Jesus Christ. The God-man. One Person. Two natures.
Napoleon is overawed. Solomon and the Hebrew writer flounder. Shakespeare has nothing to say (however, the Sonnet I quoted fits better to Christ than to any earthly person!). And it gets better; there is even more to say on His wonder. Why this ‘assumption of humanity’ around 4BC? What was the point of the plan? Here it is from the pen of Paul:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).
The richest Person, the Darling of heaven became poor, became ‘one of us’ so that we could be truly rich, so that we could encounter God safely, enjoy the eternal Being and go home to heaven. Jesus became the poorest person ever on the cross as there He paid the penalty for our sin and rebellion. The Darling of heaven became the object of horror and the epitome of hell itself. What words can describe Him and His work adequately? None – He is incomparable. Shame on us Christians for being so cold. There will not be many Christian homes without copies of John Owen’s works – books much owned, but little read! Pick up Volume One, entitled The Glory of Christ. Read it and cure your cold heart.
Andy Christofides is the minister of St Mellons Baptist Church, Cardiff.