|THE HUMILIATION OF CHRIST
Series: What A Fellowship - Part Four
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
May 3, 2015
This morning we’re going on in our study of Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. We’ve arrived at 2:5-11. This being probably a familiar passage let’s read it out loud together to get it fresh in our minds.
Philippians 2:5: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 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. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Verse 5 is the why of why verses 5 to 11 are here. Paul’s writing about Jesus Christ is Paul’s Illustration of humility. What humility looks like in real time.
In past Sundays - we’ve been following Paul - who’s been teaching about what means for us to set ourselves aside - to die to ourselves - our focusing on getting our own needs met - so that we can focus together on what it means to have fellowship together in Jesus - to follow Jesus together.
Huge opportunities that we’re going to miss if we’re focused on ourselves. Worse - if we’re focused on ourselves - we’re going to end up hurting each other and damaging our witness of the gospel.
Last Sunday we saw Paul call the Philippians and us to humility - to stand courageously together for Christ and to look after the concerns and needs of others in the congregation.
Verse 5 begins an illustration of what humility looks like in real time.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
“Mind” translates a Greek word that has the idea of gut level thinking. At the core of what makes us us we need to have the same attitude of mind - the humility - that Jesus had. “From the core of who you are keep thinking this among you, which was the attitude that is also in Christ Jesus.”
Verses 6 to 11 - Paul gives us Three Descriptions of Jesus - of what that gut level humility mindset looks like in real time.
First is the description of Who Jesus Is.
Paul writes in verse 6 that Jesus “was in the form of God.”
The Jehovah’s Witnesses tell us that Jesus is a creation of God. The Mormons tell us that Jesus, through obedience - progressing - attained to the rank of a god. Muslims will tell us that Jesus was a prophet - maybe more.
The verb “was in” - in the original Greek - has the idea of “existed and existing.” “Jesus existed and He is existing.”
“Form” in Greek has the idea not just of an outward appearance - but of one’s inward nature - the essence of who a person is.
“Grasp” literally means to grab at - like reaching for a prize - something valuable to grab on to. Point being - Jesus doesn’t need to grasp at being God because whatever it is that God is Jesus is - always is - forever past - right now - forever future. Jesus is God. THE God.
In Revelation chapters 4 and 5 - the Apostle John is invited into the Throne Room of God. John trying to describe all that for us. Trying... How does one describe the indescribable?
John writes that there are 24 elders - representing God’s people - 24 elders with front row seats. 12 of whom represent us - New Testament saints. One day - if we’re in Christ - we’ll be there too. Probably won’t mind if it’s a seat in the back. But we’re gonna be there. Yes? 24 elders - representing God’s people - bow prostrate - in utter devotion - in worship.
4 living creatures from the 4 sides of God’s throne - 4 angelic beings of the highest rank - worship at the throne. They’re joined by countless numbers of angels - myriads and myriads - thousands upon thousands. From the farthest reaches of His creation - from all of His creation - comes the anthem of praise - adoration - worship.
God’s presence - His splendor - His majesty - His holiness - fills His Throne Room. The foundations shake with worship. Put simply - the place is rocking - overwhelmed with the presence of God and worship.
Its the ultimate mosh pit with everyone pushing to the front.
Worship that grows in volume - in intensity - focusing on God and Jesus - so intertwined - that the reality is declared. Jesus - God - the Lamb is worthy of worship. Jesus alone is awesome in His majesty - His power - His authority - His sovereignty - His wisdom - His holiness. Jesus alone is worthy to receive all blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever.
Read with me the declaration - words from Revelation that we’re doing to sing in eternal worship:
Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!
Worthy are You, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for You created all things,
and by Your will they existed and were created.
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom
and might and honor and glory and blessing!
To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!
Processing humility we need to try to somehow process Who Jesus is. God - the Creator - our Creator - the holy sovereign God of His creation.
Gut level humility mindset description number two is What Jesus Did.
In verse 7 Paul writes that Jesus “made Himself nothing” - literally the Greek has the idea of emptying Himself - or taking something off. Meaning Jesus chose to empty Himself of His right to act as God.
Going on - verse 7 - Jesus took on “the form of a servant.” Servant meaning not like a household servant - but literally a slave - on the same level as a pick or shovel. Something to be used - abused.
Going on - “begin born in the likeness of men.” Meaning that Jesus didn’t come as a king - a ruler or a rich person - someone insulated from the worst parts of our human condition. Jesus fully took on everything of what it means to be human - total identification with us - except for the guilt we carry because or our sin.
Point being: What Paul is describing is what happened at Bethlehem. All of Who Jesus is - God. Think: Throne Room of Heaven and worship. Being born in human flesh. Think: Humility - Bethlehem and a manger.
Today I brought my hat with me. Oldie but goodie illustration. Hopefully familiar.
Imagine if I’m Jesus. That’s a stretch. Right. And I choose to take my hat - which represents my prerogative to act as God - which I am. And I take off my hat and lay it aside. I’ve taken off - emptied myself - of my right to act as God - to use my abilities - my attributes - as God.
Let’s be careful. Have I changed? No. I’m still divine me. Is the hat still mine? Yes. But, I choose not to wear it.
Then comes Bethlehem. The baby laid in a manger - Jesus - God - taking on human flesh - in carnation - God in carne. Jesus really is a human baby in the fullness of everything it means to be a human baby.
The baby Jesus gets wrapped in swaddling clothes. Great illustration of God - at birth - God getting wrapped - taking on - the prerogative to act as a human. My hat is there for when I choose to put it on again. But right now I’m swaddled.
Let’s be careful. Is Jesus still Jesus? Yes. Still God? Yes. Human? Yes. What changed? He’s set aside His divine attributes in order to be clothed in human attributes.
Jesus - born in Bethlehem - laid in a manger - is the only begotten Son of God and the virgin born Son of Man. That means that Jesus - by a supernatural work of God - Jesus is both fully God and fully man - united in one person without the inheritance of sin.
Are we kind of together? Ultimately only God really gets this. But its crucial that we understand enough to appreciate the magnitude of what Jesus did.
Going on - verse 8 - and being found in human form - meaning God in human flesh - He humbled Himself
“Humbled” here has the idea of getting down level with the ground. “He humbled Himself” - means that Jesus did it to Himself. “Obedient” in Greek means to place ourselves “under” the authority of what we “hear” - the instructions - the will of the one giving the instruction.
We need to grab that. Jesus chose - voluntarily placed Himself in a position low enough to be used - even as the ground beneath our feet - to be trampled on by humanity - even crucifixion - because that was what God willed for Him to do.
How did Jesus humble Himself? First - He became “obedient to the point of death.”
Jesus didn’t have to die. He isn’t born - as we are - with the terminal illness of sin. Jesus loved us so much that He chose to receive the death sentence that’s really ours.
In Exodus - God sent plague after plague - frogs, insects, and locust - oh my. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened - arrogant. Finally there’s one last plague. All the firstborn in Egypt will die - from the first born of Pharaoh down to the firstborn of a slave girl. Even the firstborn of the cattle. Its and immutable death sentence hanging over every firstborn. Sobering if you’re a first born child.
The only salvation for God’s people is to sacrifice a what? 1 year old unblemished male lamb. Kill the lamb. Put its blood - where? on the doorposts and across the lintel. When the Lord passes through Egypt and sees the blood of the lamb - He’ll “pass over” that house - spare the firstborn within.
We know this. In His Levitical Law God took that Passover lamb and prescribed it as a an offering for sin. The animal was placed on the altar and the one making the sacrifice - the sinner - would put his hand on the animal to signify the transfer of guilt - that the animal was taking the place of the sinner - taking the penalty for the sin - dying in the place of the sinner - so that the one making the offering - the sinner - would be pardoned by God and cleansed of the sin and the guilt. The innocent dying for the guilty.
Meaning: Since Jesus is fully God He’s perfect. No sin. No blemish. He meets God’s requirements. Jesus is the perfect Lamb to be offered as God’s sacrificial Lamb on the cross.
Because Jesus is fully man - one of us - Jesus meets the requirements to represent us as our sacrifice. To take our place on the cross - taking on Himself the wrath of God which should have been leveled against us - to provide the whole basis for our restored relationship with God.
Jesus who is worthy to be worshipped - by elders, angels, and all of us. Jesus - the Almighty Sovereign God of Creation. Jesus set all that aside to serve - us - to die in our place.
“Even” - Paul writes - “even death on a cross.”
We need to let that sink in and let our minds marinate on that.
Jesus could have chosen to die quickly - painlessly - in some peaceful setting surrounded by His family and friends. But, He chose to die on a cross. Death by crucifixion is so horrendous that they had to event a new word just to describe it. “Excruciating” literally means “out of the cross.” Just think about that.
By time Jesus finally made it to the cross He’d been flogged - that alone is a study in agony - flesh being shredded and stripped from the body. He’d been beaten, spat on, mocked, a crown of thorns shoved down over His head. He’d carried that cross beam at least part way to Golgotha.
When they laid Jesus out on the cross they drove 5 to 7 inch spikes - nails - through His wrists and feet - severing and crushing vital nerves. Searing jolts of unimaginable pain would have shot though His body. When the cross is raised and set into place Jesus’ arms are stretched - probably six inches beyond their normal reach. His shoulders are dislocated.
Ultimately crucifixion is a slow process of asphyxiation. Stresses on the muscles and diaphragm put the chest into an inhaled position. In order to exhale - Jesus would have had to push up on His feet - causing the nails to tear through the flesh of His feet - pushing up enough to relax the tension on the muscles just enough to exhale.
That went on and on - an agonizing process of pushing up - exhaling - letting down - pushing up - exhaling - until exhaustion took place and the victim simply couldn’t breathe anymore.
Then there was the shame - the disgrace - the humiliation of hanging on a cross - a death reserved for thieves and murderers - slaves and foreigners. A type of execution that wasn’t allowed for Roman citizens. That the Jews claimed was indicative of God’s curse. Jesus being crucified before His family and friends. And grief - not for Himself - but for those standing around the cross - jeering - laughing - mocking - arrogant.
Isaiah wrote, “He - Jesus - was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His scourging we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
Paul writes in Romans: “For while we were still helpless - condemned by our own sin - at the right time - at Passover - on the cross - Christ died for the ungodly” - each one of us. (Romans 5:6 NASB)
It is what John the Baptist cries out: “Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29b)
Words can’t describe that. The Throne Room of Heaven - to the manger - to the cross. What Jesus did. Humility in real time.
Let’s go on. Description number three: Who Jesus Glorified. Ultimately, Who gets the credit for what Jesus did?
Paul writes - verse 9 - “Therefore - because of Who Jesus is and What Jesus did - therefore God has highly exalted Him - Jesus - and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
First - Paul writes, that God “highly exalted” Jesus. The Greek word has the idea of being “super-lifted up” - way up there - powerfully lifted up. Jesus was crucified - died - is resurrected.
But God didn’t just resurrect Jesus a little bit. Kind of quietly - so no one would really notice.
God resurrected Jesus in a place that was geographically central to the peoples of Asia, Europe, and Africa. At a time when communication - roads - language - empire - all facilitated the message being spread.
God broke the seal of the mighty Roman Empire. Took out carefully selected highly trained crack Roman troops. Had a massive stone rolled away. Sent angels to declare the resurrection.
God powerfully raised Jesus - highly exalted Him.
Then second - Paul writes that God “bestowed” - graciously gave to Him - “the name which is above every name.”
In Scripture - a name is not just something we call someone. A name is our reputation. It represents character - dignity - position - rank - office - majesty. It commands respect - honor - even worship.
When God powerfully raised Jesus - all of what Jesus voluntarily set aside at the incarnation - in obedience dying - at the resurrection - God the Father powerfully restores and gives to Him the name. Notice the definite article: “the” name - not “a” name. There is no name greater than “the” name of Jesus - no one greater than He.
Jesus is Immanuel - The Son of David - Prince of Peace - Wonderful Counselor - The Word - The Light of the World - Advocate - The Great Shepherd. He is the Way - the Truth - the Life. Man of Sorrows - The Firstborn From The Dead - The Cornerstone - The Head of the Church. Jesus is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah - The Root of David - The Bright Morning Star - the Holy One - Alpha - Omega - The Lord God - The Great I Am - The Lamb of God.
Then Paul writes - verse 10 - “So that - the reason God highly exalted Jesus - the reason God bestowed on Him the name - is so that - number one reason - at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” - surrender by choice or submit by decree - bow in reverence or grudging admiration - in joyful faith or resentment and despair. One day every knee will bow.
Notice the scope: “Every knee” - “those who are in heaven” - celestial - angels - saints in heaven - everyone up there. Those who are “on earth” - terrestrial - everyone on earth. Those who are “under the earth” - infernal - Satan and his hordes - those lost in hell. Anyone left out? No one. The scope is universal. Every rational being will bow.
Second reason God highly exalts Jesus - so that at the name of Jesus - verse 11 - “every tongue will confess.”
To confess is to agree and openly - publicly - without any reservation or disagreement with what’s being declared - acknowledge - what? “that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
Jesus meaning what the angel tells Joseph: “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name - what? Jesus, for He will - what? save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
Our English “Jesus” comes from the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua” which means “Yahweh saves.” Yahweh which is the covenant name of God. The name of God that represents the intimacy of God’s ongoing relationship with His people. God calling His people into relationship with Him. Saving and sustaining them.
Christ meaning: “Christos” - Christ - is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Messiah” - literally “Anointed.” Meaning the one uniquely set apart by God to be our Savior. Jesus is the One through whom we have access to God.
Lord meaning The Master - the owner and sovereign ruler of all of Creation. Jesus is the eternal sovereign Lord God.
Are we together? One day - every rational being will physically bow - every tongue will audibly confess - with one voice - in agreement - openly - in acknowledgement - that Jesus is God. God who loves us. God who saves us. Jesus who is the sovereign Lord.
Then - the ultimate purpose of exalting and bestowing and bowing and confessing - verse 11 - Who Jesus glorified - bottom line: “To the Glory of God the Father.”
Everything Jesus did - His divine attributes set aside - His taking on humanity - His choice - His humility - He did in obedience to God the Father - to the glory of God. Everything God has bestowed on Jesus - exalting Him - is all to the glory of God. The great purpose of the Son is to glorify the Father - to bring honor and praise to Him. (John 17:1)
Point being: When all creation bows before Jesus - the great purpose of the Father in sending the Son is realized - God is glorified.
That’s a lot
to take in. Isn’t
verse 5 - Paul writes - “Have this mind
among yourselves - which is yours in Christ Jesus.”
Jesus - born in a manger - is God. Jesus the Lamb of God - Jesus is worthy to be worshiped. Exalted. Sovereign. Holy. We are not. In fact - our very lives are an affront to God.
That may sound harsh. Might ruffle a few feathers. But, if we honestly think about - its true.
Point being - spiritually each of us is in a vary precarious position. We can try to paddle faster - work harder - do more religious stuff. But ultimately we’re fish food.
Even as a Christians. Forgiven? Yes. Sinners? Yes. Even as Christians our sin is an affront to God.
We’re desperate - condemned in our sin with no way out. Destined for eternal punishment and separation from God. Only God is capable of forgiving our debt. Only a man could pay it. Jesus - God - took on humanity - took our place - endured the cross for us.
We need to - at the core level - stop deluding ourselves and get a grip on grace. Only by what God, because of His undeserved grace, offers us in Jesus do we have any hope.
Humility is a choice to live in the reality of God’s undeserved grace.
Mindset description number two: What We Do. Or, more to the point - what we should be doing.
There’s a vast contrast between the throne room of God and being the center of worship to the cross and being the focal point of rejection. That was the choice Jesus made. “He humbled Himself.” Jesus - who is without sin - Jesus identifies with us - with our sin.
Maybe - following Jesus’ example - maybe we need to choose to identify with the sin of those who claimed the name of Christ and enslaved native peoples in order to build their churches. Or, lied to and massacred and herded off innocent people who stood in the way of their manifest destiny.
Or those who claim the name of Christ who cannot see beyond the sin of homosexuality to the woundedness of the person. Or Christians who camp out on our sin of the day pointing fingers at everyone else - even to creating division and disaster in the church.
Maybe rather than trying to distance ourselves from those who claim the name of Christ - trying to push the point that all those people aren’t really Christians - like people outside the church are really going to understand the difference. Maybe we should identify ourselves as fellow sinners and admit our own brokenness.
Like Jesus who - even though He Himself was without sin - was not condemned by His own sin - He did set the example by choosing to enter into our world not to condemn us but to save us.
What would it be like to let go of our prerogative to defend ourselves and to take care of ourselves - to let go of all the things and attitudes we hold on to and to simply humble ourselves before God and others? That humbling of ourselves might gain us some traction - some cred - in sharing the gospel with people around us who already know we’re broken. Just saying.
Humility is a choice to extend God’s grace to others.
It is way to easy to fall into the trap of thinking that what Jesus did is all about us. To think that the whole purpose of Bible study and prayer and worship and fellowship - of being God’s people - is somehow about us. Like we’re end users of all this. To us be the glory.
But everything about Jesus’ ministry was designed to expand the kingdom of God to make salvation and the knowledge of God more accessible - to fulfill the purpose of the Father - to glorify the Father. (John 17:1)
Following Jesus as our Savior - individually and together - for us to live lives where God gets the glory - we’ve got to let go of anything that keeps us from totally trusting God with our lives. So that everything that God blesses us with - time - talent - treasure - our very relationship with Him - all of that is without reservation totally at His command. So that when people look at our lives the only possible explanation for what’s taking place - the only possibility of Who our lives testify of is... God.
Humility is a choice to live by God’s grace for God’s glory.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.