Listen to this verse, so appropriate for this Easter month:
That though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”  (2 Cor. 8:9).

Let’s ask some questions about that meaty statement. When did Christ become poor? How did He become poor? Why did He become poor? What kind of poverty did He experience? What difference does it make?

I must admit that the first half of this article is based mainly on another man’s sermon. The late Frank Mullins, Sr. preached on this verse at the Thanksgiving Day meeting of the Louisville area churches. It was sometime in the 1950s, and I was a teenager. I had never heard a sermon on this text before. I didn’t even remember hearing the verse till that day! But that Thanksgiving morning the glorious truths he presented from God’s Word made an indelible impression on me, so that fifty years later I share them with you. May our Heavenly Father write them deeply on our hearts now in the same way.

Let’s repeat and then ponder the priceless-but-little-known text: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

WHEN did Christ Become Poor?

Was it at His birth?
     He left the radiant splendors of Heaven to come to earth, this humble planet infected by sin. In Heaven He shared the glory of His Father — but on earth He disguised His glory and appeared as an ordinary baby boy. In Heaven He ruled from the Throne of the Universe — here He was born in a barn. In Heaven He was worshipped by Millions of Angels — here He was honored only by a handful of humble sheep-herders, and a few foreign star-gazers, and a small number of elderly saints in Jerusalem. In Heaven the wealth and grandeur of all creation was His — here He had poor parents who when they went to God’s temple could not afford to give the usual offering, but only the lesser one provided for indigent people.

Yet, in spite of all that, Jesus was not really poor at birth — for His Heavenly Father, the Most High God of gods , was with Him. That’s not poverty! Well then, when did Christ become poor?

Was it during His childhood, youth, and young manhood?
     He was just a carpenter’s son, who later became a carpenter himself. He earned his living and supported his family by the sweat of his brow. He probably seemed poor to those who knew Him — though there were many such folks then. Oh He did not live in grinding poverty, never knowing where the next meal would come from. But doubtless there were times when He had trouble paying some of the bills. By today’s standards He was neither upper-class nor middle-class, but a peasant.

And He lived in a hick-town in a back-water area of a second-class land where a minor-league people lived! At least that’s how the sophisticated people of that day would esteem it. But I don’t think he was really poor during those years either. For still His Heavenly Father was with Him. And how can you be called poor when the God of the Universe is your Father, and is with you and cares for you? Well then, when did Jesus become poor?

Was it during his Public Ministry?

It was then He became a traveling rabbi with a band of poor disciples tagging along with Him? After all, during that time He himself said, “Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” [Luke 9:58.] He didn’t own a home.  And yet He enjoyed unbroken fellowship with His Father, as He had experienced through the ages of eternity. And could such a Son of such a Father be called poor? True, He did not have much in material goods, and He lacked many things we consider to be not luxuries but necessities. And yet His divine Father was with Him …so He was still rich!

Did Jesus “become poor” at the end of His ministry?

He was deserted by even His closest followers and friends? They forsook Him, ran away, abandoned Him! When your friends leave you high and dry in your neediest hour, how lonely it feels. If Judas was the only disciple who actually betrayed Him, nonetheless the others deserted Him. We are poor indeed when our loved ones leave us stranded to face our fears and foes alone.

And yet even then He was not poor. For earlier that very evening, before they all fled, He had told them, “A time is coming, and has [now] come, when you … will leave me all alone. Yet I am NOT alone, for my Father is with me.” (John 16:32.)

Yes, during the betrayal, the arrest, and the various stages of His unjust trial — including the tortures He endured — it was still true, and He knew it: His eternal, divine Father was with Him. He was not alone, and so He was not poor.

BUT, during His Crucifixion, Jesus cried out in a loud voice,

 ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

THAT is when He became poor.

     He was poverty-stricken indeed. During those moments, during those hours, during that eternity, the sinless Son, the only perfect person who ever lived, was abandoned by His Father-God, the Judge of the Universe.

But WHY did Christ Become Poor?

Why? — Why? — WHY would the Father desert Him like that? Because of the fact which Paul wrote 3 chapters earlier (2 Cor. 5:21): “God made him who had no sin to BE SIN for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” And Isaiah had prophesied this too, 700 years before: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on HIM the Iniquity of US ALL.

My father-in-love, Jesse Wood, used to say, “The Most Sinful Person who ever lived was Jesus on the cross!” There and then my sins and your sins were laid upon Him. Then and there the sins of the entire human race were laid upon Him. There and then He became sin for us. He assumed the responsibility for the awful evils I have committed.

The Most Sinful Person who ever lived was Jesus on the cross! There He endured the hell my sins deserved and your sins de-served: Separation from His holy God and Father. Abandonment by the just Judge. Wrath from the righteous Ruler of the planets, stars and universes. His loving co-creator and co- ruler of all that exists poured out on Jesus His holy fury against wickedness. At Calvary the Lord punished all the sins of all the people of all the ages — in Christ!

The mean, slimy evils and warped wickednesses and deliberate, foul, stinking pains and tortures which humans have gleefully inflicted on each other –
Jesus died for them there.   Jesus paid for them there.

Each kidnapping, every child-abuse, each stabbing, every wife-beating, and all the robberies and arsons and lies and lusts throughout the ages and throughout the planet — the guilt of them all was laid on Him. Every sneak-attack on innocent and defense-less people, wiping out multitudes of lives and destroying families and wrecking economies — Jesus at Calvary was counted guilty for those atrocities.

And each time we feel smug, and gloat that we are better than others; every time we act in self- centeredness, exalting ourselves and putting others down — we add to the total guilt of mankind that was placed upon Jesus at the cross. Our bitter words, hateful thoughts, broken promises and deceiving lies — each of them drove those spikes through His hands and feet, and the spear into His side.

It wasn’t the Roman soldiers who stapled Him to the cross. It was my selfishness, and your laziness, and his beating his wife, and her cheating her husband, and their temper tantrums with the kids, and that boss exploiting his staff, and those workers stealing from the boss, and the judge twisting judgment because of bribes, and the ruler tyrannizing his citizens and enriching himself by impoverish-ing them — these sins and all sins, our sins and my sins, nailed Jesus to the cross. These evils, and all others, impoverished Him of His fellowship with the Father.

He who was Rich became Poor, He who was Righteous became Sin–that we might be saved. Jesus was pierced for my trans-gressions, he was crushed for your iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. The Father was willing to do that because He loves us so much. The Son carried out that plan of love because He yearns for our love in return. For our sakes He became poor, so that we might become rich. As Max Lucado wrote, Jesus “would rather go to hell for you, than go to heaven without you.”

Let us review, that we might See the Logic of this, and Feel the Love of this:

1. “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Learn what True Love is: He loves us so much He impoverished Himself to enrich us forever.

2. “A time is coming, and has come, when you … will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me” (John 16:32.) Let’s define accurately the meaning of Spiritual Wealth: The pres-ence of our God is more valuable than the presents given us by anyone else. And through Christ we have been enriched with this greatest prize of all: the presence of the High God who will never leave us but always love us, extravagantly.

3. During His Crucifixion, “Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matt. 27:46). Let’s understand the Staggering Price He paid that we might be thus enriched — reconciled to God. Jesus endured our Hell for us.

4. “He who had no sin God made to Be Sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). This demonstrates the height and depth and length and width of our Lord’s Immeasurable Love for us, for you and me — each day, each hour, each minute, each second. O “bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me — bless His Holy Name!”


Word and Work, December, 2009