I stumbled across this photo last week and it captivated me. There is beauty in the simplicity of it.
Here is Jesus. Homeless. Tattered clothes. With the reason for his condition scrawled out on a dirty piece of cardboard: “Traded everything for love”.
The passerby would be left to wonder—what did this guy trade? How marvelous must this beauty be that he would make himself homeless to have her be his? What magnificent love must this man have…
When you fill in the details of the story with the gospel narrative the passerby would be even more astonished. To realize that the one he traded everything for isn’t some captivating beauty but an unfaithful harlot that has made herself haggardly from her rebellion. Now the passerby begins to grasp the depth of His love and the glory of His character.
What a phenomenal picture of the Story behind all stories.
But is it true?
In one sense it is an absolutely beautiful and true picture of the incarnation. When he walked the earth he had no place to lay his head. He was as a homeless man. And all of this was because of love—love for His bride and Love for His Father.
I believe that the statement “Traded Everything for Love” comes from Philippians 2:6-8
…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Love compelled Jesus to “take the form of a servant” by “taking upon himself human flesh”. Do you notice what is missing from Philippians 2, though? He didn’t “trade everything in”. Yes he “made himself nothing”. But he did not stop being God when He became man. This is the wonder of the incarnation. God became flesh but He didn’t cease being Deity.
This isn’t a City of Angels type of story. The pre-existent Son of God did not drop this identity and become a mere human. He remained the pre-existent Son of God but he took upon human flesh.
This is good news.
Our redemption is tied up in the fact that Jesus did not “trade everything” for love. The incarnation is only a means to the greater end of “reconciling all things to himself”, creating a people for himself, overturning the works of the devil, and ultimately restoring everything in the new heavens and the new earth. He doesn’t do this simply by becoming a man. He does this because He is the God-man.
So did Jesus “trade everything for love”? Kind of…but not really.