“For their sakes Christ so humbled and emptied Himself, in taking flesh, as to become therein a servant,– in the eyes of the world of no esteem nor account; and a true and real servant unto the Father.
For their sakes He humbled Himself, and became obedient. All that He did and suffered in His life comes under this consideration; all which may be referred to these three heads:
[1.] Fulfilling all righteousness.
[2.] Enduring all manner of persecutions and hardships.
[3.] Doing all manner of good to men.
He took on Him, for their sakes, a life and course pointed to, (Heb. 5:7-8),—a life of prayers, tears, fears, obedience, suffering; and all this with cheerfulness and delight, calling His employment His “meat and drink,” and still professing that the law of this obedience was in His heart,—that He was content to do this will of God.
He that will sorely revenge the least opposition that is or shall be made to Him by others, was content to undergo any thing, all things, for believers.
He stays not here, but (for the consummation of all that went before) for their sakes He becomes obedient to death, the death of the cross. So He professeth to His Father, ‘For their sakes I sanctify myself;’ (John 17:19)—’I dedicate myself as an offering, as a sacrifice, to be killed and slain.’
This was His aim in all the former, that He might die; He was born, and lived, that He might die. He valued them above His life.
And if we might stay to consider a little what was in this death that He underwent for them, we should perceive what a price indeed He put upon them.
The curse of the law was in it, (Gal. 3:13) the wrath of God was in it, the loss of God’s presence was in it (Ps. 22:1). It was a fearful cup that he tasted of, and drank of, that they might never taste of it (Matt. 26:39).
A man would not for ten thousand worlds be willing to undergo that which Christ underwent for us in that one thing of desertion from God, were it attended with no more distress but what a mere creature might possibly emerge from under.
And what thoughts we should have of this Himself tells us, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ (John 15:13)
It is impossible there should be any greater demonstration or evidence of love than this. What can any one do more?
And yet He tells us in another place, that it hath another aggravation and heightening, ‘God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Rom. 5:8)
When He did this for us we were sinners, and enemies, whom He might justly have destroyed. What more can be done?—to die for us when we were sinners! Such a death, in such a manner, with such attendancies of wrath and curse,—a death accompanied with the worst that God had ever threatened to sinners,—argues as high a valuation of us as the heart of Christ Himself was capable of.
For one to part with His glory, His riches, His ease, His life, His love from God, to undergo loss, shame, wrath, curse, death, for another, is an evidence of a dear valuation; and that it was all on this account, we are informed, (Heb. 12:2).
Certainly Christ had a dear esteem of them, that, rather than they should perish,— that they should not be His, and be made partakers of His glory,— He would part with all He had for their sakes, (Eph. 5:25-26).
There would be no end, should I go through all the instances of Christ’s valuation of believers, in all their deliverances, afflictions, in all conditions of sinning and suffering,— what He hath done, what He doth in His intercession, what He delivers them from, what He procures for them; all telling out this one thing,— they are the apple of His eye, His jewel, His diadem, His crown.”
–John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 2: Communion With God (ed. William H. Goold; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1850-53/1997), 2: 134-136.