By John H. Cress
One of my favorite Bible verses that is rarely recognized in light of Christmas is “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
This verse that arrests our attention was written by Saul of Tarsus: a well-respected, brilliant man who trained under the renowned rabbi Gamaliel. He was a keen thinker with a broad vocabulary and a master of the Greek language. He was a capable communicator. Yet when he attempts to describe this “gift” and dips into the treasure of his knowledge, he cannot find one word that could prefix this “gift,” so he chooses a term that is used nowhere else in all of Scripture: indescribable.
2 Corinthians 8:9 summarizes this indescribable gift: “You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich” (NLT).
These three facts clearly reveal the great gift Christ is to us this Christmas season:
1) He was rich
2) He became poor
3) That he could make you rich
Who was this Jesus of Bethlehem, and what made Him so rich before His birth? Isaiah 9:6 gives us the prophecy of the Christ child: “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (NKJV).
This child, born in a stable, was not just any child of a poor laborer. He is the Mighty God. He was Yahweh, the creator of all things. Angels delight to give Him homage; every seraph’s wing would fly to His bidding; all the hosts of heaven worshiped at His feet. He did not lack for praise, nor did He lack for servants. Legions of angels were ever ready to do His commandments. All things were His, and the power to make more if He needed them.
It was this God; Yahweh of all eternity—in whom the Father had infinite delight—who looked upon men with the eye of love, who was born in Bethlehem’s manger, who lived on earth, the peasant’s life, toiling and suffering, and died on a criminal’s cross.
Our text says, “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor.” Think of these words: “He became poor.”
He disrobed Himself of His glory and covered Himself with the flesh of our humanity.
He became poor in every sense of the word. The home into which He was born was among the poorest in Galilee. And when He came into the world, He was even without a bed on which to rest. Instead, He was born in the stable made for the animals, laid in a manger and raised in a poor community, the despised city of Nazareth.
He became poor. All the days of His earthly ministry, He was poor. He said, “Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens, and birds have nests. But the Son of Man doesn't have a place to call his own’” (Matthew 8:20, CEV).
He became poor. He was unable to pay taxes without the performance of a miracle when he caused the fish of the sea to give up the coin.
He became poor. The rich of His day had little to do with Him. When He stood before the bar accused, no one of them appeared on the scene to offer their assistances. There Jesus stood during the hour of His trial, a poor, bedraggled, lonely, unwelcomed, unwanted man. Forsaken even by what the few friends He had.
He became poor. He died on a deserted cross and was buried in another man’s grave.
And there was another kind of poverty that Jesus knew about. He was, in the deepest sense of the word, poor in spirit. How can we ever know the pangs of His solitariness, His aloneness? How impoverished must He have been for human companionship? How very little were His disciples able to share His thoughts, or understand His world and actions?
How awfully alone He must have been in the Garden of Gethsemane, when, in agony, He sweat, as it were, “great drops of blood.” And how utterly alone He was, when on the cross He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46).
He became poor. The prophet Isaiah saw His great poverty of spirit when, 700 years before the birth of Jesus, he wrote: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53).
But why did the Son of God choose to become poor?
Our text says, “He became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich.”
His humiliation, His great poverty, both physical and spiritual, were for the purpose of introducing us to the riches of heaven. If Christ had not come, we would know little about God and the glory of heaven. We would know little about the world to come.
Jesus brought life and immortality to light. He pulled aside the veil and gave us a glimpse of the Father’s house. He said, “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am” (John 14:2-3, NLT).
When Socrates was condemned to drink the deadly hemlock, he made his farewell statement to Plato: “The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways—I to die and you to life. Which is better is known only to the gods.” That is the only hope which one of the wisest of the world’s philosophers had as he faced death without Christ.
How different are the words of the Apostle Paul, who was in prison and facing death! He wrote his friend Timothy, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12, KJV).
At the close of that letter, he wrote: “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand…henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8, KJV).
Let us rejoice this Christmas season in the presence of the indescribable gift of Jesus who came into this world to offer us His marvelous Grace.
He became poor that we might be rich. He emptied Himself of His glory in order that we might be filled with the fullness of God.
He laid aside His glory in order that we might enter into His glory. He gave up all in order that we might receive all.
He became friendless in this world that He might show Himself a friend to sinners. He walked a lonely path in order that we might find the pathway of eternal life.
He was willing that all men should forsake Him that we might have the fellowship of God. He walked up Golgotha’s brow in order that we might tread the streets of gold.
He wore a crown of thorns in order that we might wear a crown of glory. He wore a purple robe in order that we might be clothed with His spotless righteousness.
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NKJV).
He entered death that we might enter into eternal life. He laid in the grave that we might be resurrected from the grave.
God’s total answer to man’s total need, is Jesus Christ. What an incredible, indescribable gift.