“Earthly kings and princes,” writes Edwards, “when they are about to engage in any great and difficult work, will put on their strength, and will appear in all their majesty and power, that they may be successful. But when Christ was about to perform the great work of redeeming a lost world, the wisdom of God took an opposite method, and determined that he should be humbled and abased to a mean state, and appear in low circumstances.”
The Christmas carol composed by Carol Owens underscores this same truth. After asking the question, “How should a king come?” the melodic voices of men and women answer as follows:
“Even a child knows the answer of course, In a coach of gold with a pure white horse. In the beautiful city in the prime of the day, And the trumpets should cry and the crowds make way. And the flags fly high in the morning sun, And the people all cheer for the sovereign one. And everyone knows that's the way that it's done. That's the way that a King should come.”
With repeated emphasis, the earthly pomp of kings is stressed. But near the end of the song, the Gospel emerges. After again asking the question, “How should a king come?” the following comes by way of reply,
“On a star filled night into Bethlehem, Rode a weary woman and a worried man. And the only sound in the cobblestone street, Was the shuffle and the ring of their donkey's feet. And a King lay hid in a virgin's womb, And there were no crowds to see Him come. At last in a barn in a manger of hay, He came and God incarnate lay.”
With the incarnation of the Son of God, we behold the most amazing interplay between divine power and human weakness. All throughout the OT, God used humble and fragile means to accomplish His purposes. With the coming of Christ, this is no less the case. The King of kings was born in a barn. His mother was a young peasant. Lowly shepherds hailed His arrival. There were no trumpet blasts in the street, no banners, and the only crown that would ever be placed on His head during His earthly ministry would be a crown of thorns.
This would be the perfect way to destroy a proud enemy.
In terms of military strategy, the Lord of Hosts had established a pattern of confronting the kingdom of darkness with violent force. Sometimes this came in the form of mighty plagues, sometimes with the edge of the sword, and sometimes an angel of death took the lives of thousands. This was justice channeled through judgment, and it was right and good. But when Christ was born, the long standing pattern was strategically reversed, and Satan’s expectations were thrown off balance. Weakness would be Christ’s strength, meekness His weapon of choice. As Isaiah said, “He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice” (Isaiah 42:2-3).
Here it must be asked why the cross was chosen as the means by which the propitiatory sacrifice would come. Hebrews teaches that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins (Heb 9:22). Why didn’t Christ stand on the edge of a high cliff, bear the sins of the world, and jump off to His death? That would have resulted in death. That would have shed His blood. So why choose the ignominy and torture of the cross?
Here one must remember the words of Paul to the Corinthians, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:25). By taking up His cross, it was if Christ was saying, “I can beat you through sheer strength, as you well know, but I can also beat you through abject weakness.” What more can be said about Christ’s strength, if His very weakness can overcome all the powers of hell? What does that say to Satan? What does that say to all the watching angels?
When the mob of soldiers and chief priest came to steal Jesus away in the night, He spoke these startling words, “When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53). All throughout Christ’s ministry, Satan’s leash had been fixed to some definite degree. But when the time came for the Son of Man to be lifted up, all hell broke loose. The Serpent was unleashed, and the demons that had been made to flee, being rebuked and cast out, were now permitted to pounce on Christ. They ripped into Him mercilessly, using the cruelest, most excruciating form of torture available in the ancient world. In all this, Christ allowed Himself to be swallowed by evil. Jumping off a cliff simply wouldn’t have produced the same results. Evil wouldn’t have been combated in the same way. In order to defeat evil in the most humiliating fashion, Christ had to triumph over evil by suffering humiliation.
Edwards helps crystallize the idea:
“Consider the weak and seemingly despicable means and weapons that God employs to overthrow Satan. Christ poured the greater contempt upon Satan in the victory that he obtained over him, by reason of the means of his preparing himself for it, and the weapons he has used. Christ chooses to encounter Satan in the human nature, in a poor, frail, afflicted state. He did as David did. David when going against the Philistine refused Saul’s armor, a helmet of brass, a coat of mail, and his sword. No, he puts them all off. Goliath comes mightily armed against David, with a helmet of brass upon his head, a coat of mail weighing five thousand shekels of brass, greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders, a spear, whose staff was like a weaver’s beam, and the spear’s head weighing six hundred shekels of iron. And besides all this, he had one bearing a shield before him. But David takes nothing but a staff in his hand, and a shepherd’s bag and a sling, and he goes against the Philistine. So the weapons that Christ made use of were his poverty, afflictions and reproaches, sufferings and death. His principal weapon was his cross, the instrument of his own reproachful death. These were seemingly weak and despicable instruments to wield against such a giant as Satan. And doubtless the devil disdained them as much as Goliath did David’s staves and sling. But with such weapons as these has Christ in a human, weak, mortal nature overthrown and baffled all the craft of hell. Such disgrace and contempt has Christ poured upon Satan.”