"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich."
In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus compared the riches that this world has to offer with those of heaven and he was in no doubt as to which his followers should pursue:
And Jesus knew what he was talking about for there was a time when he was himself rich. That is what our text tells us isn’t it?
The Lord Jesus Christ was rich.
And then we might want to ask when that was exactly because when we read of his life on earth he could in no way be numbered amongst the well-
He had no fixed abode:
Mt.8:20 "Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."
His resources were so limited that his needs had to be met by others:
Mt 27:55 "There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him,"
Never the slightest accusation of financial impropriety – he didn’t abuse his power or influence in order to feather his own nest or to make life more comfortable for himself. Quite simple he was poor and no-
If Jesus was not rich during his time on earth Paul must be referring to something else, but what precisely?
Paul is here confirming the teaching that is found elsewhere in the Bible – the pre-
Jn.17:5 "And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed."
This makes Jesus totally unique and consequently we speak of Jesus as we speak of none other – yes, He was born in our world but He came "from heaven" 1Cor.15:47.
How was He rich?
He was abounding in all resources imaginable being abundantly supplied. In fact He was the One who created all things and for whom all things were created:
Col 1:16 "For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities––all things were created through him and for him."
He was fully divine – it was no robbery, but He chose not to cling on to what was fully His by right:
Phil.2:6 "who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,"
The Lord Jesus Christ became poor.
With His incarnation the Lord Jesus Christ became materially poor. In becoming man He emptied Himself of His riches. See how Paul puts it again in his letter to the Philippians:
When we say He became poor we mean that He became destitute of wealth, influence, position and honour:
Jn.1:11 "He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him."
They didn't recognize who He was and consequently did not give Him what was rightfully His.
This "poverty" was not forced upon Him but voluntarily assumed by Him. We see how this was worked out in His life when, for example, He knows that He could summon legions of angels to His aid (literally the figure referred to in Mt.26:53 would be in the order of 7.200 angels!) but deliberately declines doing so.
The whole of His life on earth was one of poverty climaxing in the poverty of the Cross where, standing in our place carrying our debts, He became a debtor before the Father and met this debt at the cost of His own lifeblood.
Don't fail to notice the extremes to which His poverty went: it was customary for a person to be crucified naked, stripped even of his own clothes on the cross. And let's not forget He was devoid even of fellowship with His Heavenly Father as the Father turned His face away from His sin-
Why was all this done?
Two answers can quickly be given to this question and both are to be found in the words of our text. The two answers view the matter from two slightly different angles:
Firstly, He did it that we, who are poor especially towards God, might be made rich. That with our debts toward God paid for us we might enjoy the rich spiritual blessings of sins forgiven and of peace with God.
Secondly, He did this because he was motivated by his grace. Grace speaks of unmerited favour. This means that we had no claim upon Him to do the slightest thing for us or to act on our behalf. But He acted that way because of His loving kindness and compassion for us.
May we all this Christmas rejoice in the outstanding love and generosity of our Wonderful Lord.
2Cor.9:15 "Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!