The Excellency That Not Everyone Saw

[T]here were many who saw Jesus and did not see the glory of God. They saw a glutton and a drunkard (Matt. 11:19). They saw Beelzebul, the prince of demons (Matt. 10:25; 12:24). They saw an impostor (Matt. 27:63). “Seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear” (Matt. 13:13). The glory of God in the life and ministry of Jesus was not the blinding glory that we will see when he comes the second time with “his face . . . like the sun shining in full strength” (Rev. 1:16; cf. Luke 9:29). His glory, in his first coming, was the incomparably exquisite array of spiritual, moral, intellectual, verbal, and practical perfections that manifest themselves in a kind of meek miracle-working and unanswerable teaching and humble action that set Jesus apart from all men.

What I am trying to express here is that the glory of Christ, as he appeared among us, consisted not in one attribute or another, and not in one act or another, but in what Jonathan Edwards called “an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies…” These excellencies are so diverse that they “would have seemed to us utterly incompatible in the same subject.” In other words,

  • we admire him for his glory, but even more because his glory is mingled with humility;
  • we admire him for his transcendence, but even more because his transcendence is accompanied by condescension;
  • we admire him for his uncompromising justice, but even more because it is tempered with mercy;
  • we admire him for his majesty, but even more because it is a majesty in meekness;
  • we admire him because of his equality with God, but even more because as God’s equal he nevertheless has a deep reverence for God;
  • we admire him because of how worthy he was of all good, but even more because this was accompanied by an amazing patience to suffer evil;
  • we admire him because of his sovereign dominion over the world, but even more because this dominion was clothed with a spirit of obedience and submission;
  • we love the way he stumped the proud scribes with his wis- dom, and we love it even more because he could be simple enough to like children and spend time with them;
  • and we admire him because he could still the storm, but even more because he refused to use that power to strike the Samaritans with lightning (Luke 9:54-55) and he refused to use it to get himself down from the cross.

The list could go on and on. But this is enough to illustrate that beauty and excellency in Christ is not a simple thing. It is complex. It is a coming together in one person of the perfect balance and proportion of extremely diverse qualities. And that’s what makes Jesus Christ uniquely glorious, excellent, and admirable. The human heart was made to stand in awe of such ultimate excellence. We were made to admire Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

John Piper, God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself, pp. 51-53