Today we are going to look at a passage that is an awesome revelation of Jesus – I approach it with some trepidation because I want to do it justice but am aware that I am totally incapable of doing so – who is sufficient for these things?! But that is the case with all Scripture – we are dealing with God’s Word! So let’s call upon Him for help, that He would reveal His Son to us. If you get nothing from the message this morning, may I suggest you go home and read this passage, and read it again, until the wonder of it thrills your heart. We have slowly been wending our way through Paul’s letter to the Church in Philippi [P]. Paul was in prison in Rome and the Church in Philippi was discouraged by this because they were loyal supporters of Paul in his mission of spreading the Gospel, they were partners with him. So Paul sought to change their perspective from a human one, to looking from God’s perspective, the view-point of His purposes. We have now reached chapter 2 (if you could turn there) [P] – and last time we saw that although the Philippians were fully behind Paul, there are hints that they were not getting on so well together: [Philippians 2:1-11 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Paul encouraged them to be of the “same mind” in (Phil 2:2) [P], they needed to be in agreement – he stresses unity, thinking of others, having a humble mind – he is focusing on their thinking their “mind” – he now goes on to speak about this mind that they should have, this way of thinking:) Have this attitude (“mind” the same work as “being of the same mind” in Phil 2:2) in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped (or clung on to), but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant (a slave!), and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.] We treasure this passage (and rightly so) because of the picture it gives us of Jesus; but we need to keep in mind why it is here, the context: it develops the big idea from the previous section about being like-minded. It has been placed here for a specific reason – why do we have this description of Jesus? Because we are to have the same mind that He has! – the same attitude, the same way of thinking. Jesus is the prime example of the qualities that Paul was exhorting the Philippians to have. So although these verses are about Jesus, they are also about you and me! At least the way we should be. Paul connects this section to the previous one by asking us to think like Jesus did. In context, the model of Jesus’ humility and sacrifice is intended to reinforce Paul’s call to consider others as being more important than ourselves. And what better example could there be than Jesus? We are given a glimpse into Jesus’ mind, His attitude! And it is totally different to ours! It has just been mid-year report time. Hannah brings home a learning journal with samples of her work – she has to say what she is proud of – she is actively prompted into being proud! Her reports usually say something about them wanting to see her more confident, assertive – to be pushing herself forward, just like all the others do. The school, the world, encourages exactly the opposite attributes to those we are trying to instil into our child. The world’s way, is push to get what you want, to strive to get ahead, be proud of what you accomplish. It is behind all we do. We want more pay, so we take industrial action; we push and put pressure on to get what we want. We love our sport – but the whole basis of sport is to beat the other side, crush the opposition, assert your superiority. I well remember playing a game of croquet with my Dad according to Christian principles: instead of trying to win, I would try to arrange my shots so that things were lined up for Dad’s best interests – you know, thinking of the interests of others – he packed it in – the whole game became utterly pointless. Look, the insurance company is slow in getting my place rebuilt, so I hassle them. It works! The squeaky wheel gets the oil. So we are conditioned to push our own barrow. But what does (Phil 2:2-3) say? – look out for the interests of others; consider others more important than yourself. We are proud of our accomplishments – that is how we measure a man, by what he has done, made, or become. But that was not Jesus way – it is totally different. Let’s take a look at the traits of Jesus that are highlighted. Now if anyone has anything to be proud of, be respected it is Jesus – He is fully God! [P[ with all the rights and privileges that go with that. All that follows is to be understood in this context, namely, that Jesus has the form of God. His Divine status provides the backdrop against which we should consider His example. So what does Jesus do with all this power, position and authority? Even though He was entitled to these things, Jesus does not use them to His own advantage. He does not consider equality with God as something to fight for or hold onto. Instead of holding on to His “rights and privileges,” He chose a different path. This path has both positive and negative aspects to it. Even though He could have asserted His Divine right, He chose instead, on the negative side, not to regard equality with God as something to be grasped. What would you do if you were God?! You would expect a bit of respect, a bit of honour. It has just been the queen’s 60th jubilee – look at all the pomp and ceremony given to her, a mere human monarch. You know, pride is deep seated and is at the heart of all sin. Satan was a glorious angel, with high position in heaven – what did he do? That was not enough, he sought to make himself equal with God! But Jesus, the truly great One, did not cling to that position He had; on the contrary, He emptied and humbled Himself. He had the form of God but took on the form of man. The implication is that if Jesus is willing to set aside His own rights in obedience to the Father’s higher purposes, then why can’t we do the same? Why can’t we be like-minded and consider others more important than ourselves? Even though Jesus had the Divine clout to do anything He wanted, He chose not to stick up for His rights. I would call that MEEKNESS [P]. What Jesus did is highlighted by the contrast with what He did not do – He didn’t cling to His status and rights. Paul follows this with two statements about what He did do – instead of clinging on to His entitlements, He emptied Himself and He humbled Himself. How? By taking the form of a servant and the likeness of human form [P]. Here we have the King of kings, the supreme authority, the Lord over all because He made it all – and what does the King do? Well, kings are served by their subjects, aren’t they?! But this King over all, served His subjects!!! [P] [Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”] [Luke 22:25-27 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ “But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. “For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.] But He didn’t just serve, with all His Divine capabilities; no, He went further – He who has always been God, fully God, became a human being! To serve and fully identify and know what it is like to be human, to be like those He was serving – He became one of them! Here is God, but He took on human likeness. We strive to keep what we have attained – but He laid it all aside. What humility! [P]. I have mentioned this before, but He didn’t just come as an adult to minister for three years, He was born a baby – there is God with no control over His bowel or bladder, dependent on teenage backblocks girl to suckle Him. God in human likeness! This is where it gets exciting – think about it: nearly every superhero you read about as a kid had two qualities. First, they had a human form, like Superman, Batman, or Spiderman. But there was also that thing that made them different. They also had some kind of special power that other humans didn’t have. The same characteristics held true for the villains. They too had a human form and some special power. The thing that separated the good guys from the bad guys was what each did with their powers. The villains used their power to try and take over the world, while the heroes used theirs to fight for truth and justice. How does this relate to Philippians? Well, Jesus is in the same kind of position: fully human, yet still having His Divine attributes. It raises the question of what Jesus will do with all that He has. To build up the suspense before the answer, Paul slows things down at the end of (Phil 2:7) by nearly repeating his previous statement about Jesus being in human likeness: “being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form”. We do the same kind of thing before the peak of a story: “I was looking out the window, minding my own business. But while I was looking out the window.…” Chances are you’d be disappointed if something significant did not follow – we would naturally expect that whatever comes next is of significance to the story – we are building up the tension, the anticipation. That is what Paul is doing in this intentional slowing (Phil 2:8). So the big question is: what is the significant thing that follows the repetition? It’s what Jesus does with all His power and authority: He chooses to humble Himself instead of using His Divine power to assert Himself. Paul elaborates on this in (Phil 2:8). What did it mean to humble Himself? To be submissive, obedient, to submit to the lowliest of deaths. Paul tells us that Jesus was obedient to death. The implication is that He could not have been any more humbled or obedient. Why? Because He did much more than just suffer death. He did it in the most painful and humiliating manner: crucifixion. Paul lists two things that Jesus does: took on a servant’s form and appeared in human likeness, but the second is the more significant of the two. Each one is elaborated on using a secondary thought, practically describing what each action involves. Christ emptying Himself means He took on the form of a servant—He took on human likeness – that is a humbling thing. But Jesus went even further – humbled Himself even more. What does humbling Himself look like, practically speaking? It looks like obedience to the most unthinkable, cruel kind of death—crucifixion. Obedience itself is a humbling thing [P] – it is submitting to the authority of another. Here is Jesus who innately has supreme authority yet He submitted to His Father. He is Lord of all yet, He is the One to whom all should submit. He is King, He is the One who gives the commands – yet He is the One who obeyed! It comes through very strongly again and again in the Gospel of John, that Jesus did nothing of His own initiative, He only did what He saw His Father doing, only said what He was saying, the words that were given Him. Obedience means doing what you are told even when you don’t want to, even when it hurts, when it entails suffering: [Hebrews 5:8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.] and Jesus was obedient unto death – the ultimate in obedience. Faced with the horror of becoming sin that one who delighted in righteousness said, “Not My will but Yours be done”. He laid down His life of His own accord, [John 10:17-18 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” And He obeyed it!] That is sacrifice [P] – giving up what is yours for the sake of another – costing you dearly. For Jesus on earth it was sacrifice the whole way – the ultimate sacrifice, laying down your life – but even further the death of a cross. A death of ignominy and shame – long had it been in Jewish thinking that to be hung up to die was a curse [Galatians 3:13 Christ ….. become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—] – not only died but died accursed death – it doesn’t come any lower! From being equal with God, at His right hand, to being a man, to being a servant, to being obedient unto death, to an accursed death! From the highest heights to the deepest depths! No greater humiliation has ever taken place! Our human view of power and rights is tarnished by our sinful nature. Who hasn’t been taken advantage of or trampled on at some point in their life? When we have power and rights granted to us, we’re reluctant to give them up. Why? Because we’re afraid that they will be used against us, leaving us in a position of weakness. Although this might describe how things work in our human context, it is not how God works. What was the result of Christ’s humiliation? Was it worth all of the pain, suffering, and hardship? Far from being taken advantage of, Christ is exalted in ways so wonderful that only God could have thought them up. Jesus is the most wonderful case-study in submission. [P] Jesus did the humbling – God did the exalting. Paul offers Jesus as the model of what it means to humble oneself and consider others more important. In man’s thinking that is foolishness, a recipe for obscurity and failure. In God’s economy of things, such a choice leads to honour and exaltation. This stands in stark contrast with our human perspective, which is exactly why Paul includes Jesus’ example. It provides practical motivation to follow His lead. Look what happened to Jesus: God responds to Jesus’ humbling Himself by highly exalting Him. Jesus emptied himself, placed Himself as low as possible – God raises Him higher than any other, above all! Hallelujah! Jesus humbled Himself – God graciously gave Him and honoured Name; Jesus was obedient to death – God made every knee bow to Him. Look, either you can exalt yourself, and push others down to get to the top of the heap – or you can have God exalt you. If you exalt yourself what happens? [Luke 14:8-11 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. (you are humbled) “But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honour in the sight of all who are at the table with you. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”] It is an eternal Divine principle! Why did God exalt Jesus? Because He humbled Himself! The principle is there for us! It’s back to front to human thinking but: THE WAY UP IS DOWN! [P] Does anyone read Dr. Zeus? He wrote a book called “Yertle the turtle” [P] …… [P] The lesson? If you exalt yourself you will ultimately come to a fall. If God exalts you, however, then you remain exalted. [1 Peter 5:5-6 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.] Jesus humbled Himself, God gives Him a Name so wonderful that it is above every other one. What does this mean practically? That at the name of Jesus every knee would bow. Jesus submitted Himself, placed Himself under authority – now He is placed as the supreme authority with all bowing to Him – every knee will bow – just as Isaiah had prophesied [Isaiah 45:23 “I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.] Just for the record, “every” means every one, all of them, none are excluded. [P] Which knees? Every knee is already comprehensive, but Paul goes to extra lengths to ensure that we don’t just think he is referring to humanity. Paul “speaks slowly and uses small words” to spell out exactly how comprehensive this knee-bowing is. It entails the three different realms of existence the audience would have known: the human, earthly inhabitants; the heavenly, divine inhabitants, the spirit realm; and the inhabitants of the underworld, those that have died. This elaboration makes clear that Paul is talking about far more than just the human race! Every part of creation will pay homage to Jesus, bowing at His name—not just in His presence, but at the mere mention of His name!!! Imagine a name commanding that much honour and respect! There is coming a day when Jesus will return in glory – every knee will bow. He will rule in supreme authority over all! Hallelujah! Every knee will bow – I was going to get us all to bow before Him now – better to do so willingly of our own initiative than by compulsion. Some churches have cushions because bowing is part of their service. I think that is a good thing. Only trouble is that we are unused to doing so, if I got you to you would all feel awkward, embarrassed and your attention would be on yourself rather than the One you are bowing to. But I invite you to go home and meditate on this passage on the greatness, the glory the supreme exaltation of Jesus – all because He humbled Himself – and bow your knee before Him. It is hwo I start my quiet time each morning – me in my rightful place, in the dust at His feet. This passage is a wonderful portrayal of Jesus, wondrous revelation and insight – to Him be all the glory. May I never detract from that – but this portrayal of Jesus is given so that we may have the same mind [P]. That is the way we should be also. So what does the humiliation and exaltation of Jesus have to do with us? Is Paul just teaching theology here? Recall from the beginning of this section that Paul cites Jesus’ example as a model for us to follow. Seeing how things turned out for Him provides incentive to us as we rise to the challenge of being like-minded. If two people are butting heads, something has to give. Recall the opening verses of the chapter: If there is any encouragement. If there is any consolation or fellowship. It’s so hard to place others’ interests before our own because of our sinful nature. The example of Jesus not only challenges us, it casts a vision for the payoff of humbly submitting ourselves to God. We see the same relationship between humility and exaltation outlined in [James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.]. The way up is down! The path to exaltation is humility—serving others. Paul fully understands this, driving it home using Jesus’ experience as the ultimate example. In terms of Paul’s flow of thought in this chapter, his big idea of being like-minded [P] is still front and centre. The example of Jesus’ humiliation and exaltation in the present context is focused on motivating the Philippians to heed his call to be like-minded. So this mind that was in Jesus, we are to have also: we saw that the attitude Jesus had was one of:
1. Meekness [P]: what would it be like if we did not cling to our rights and position? If we didn’t assert our dominance but deliberately laid it aside? It would be difficult for there to be friction and disagreement between us. To be meek as Jesus was meek.
2. Service [P]: [Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.] what if we each served one another in love? If we took the lowly position, did the mundane for the sake of others? The only fight would be over who had the privilege of doing the dishes. To serve as Jesus served.
3. Humility [P]: well, what if we were humble? – if we took the lowly position; did not think we were superior, or right but placed ourselves beneath others – considered them more important than ourselves? If Jesus humbled Himself, how much more lowly we should be! Most dissention and disagreement stems from pride, clinging to our position – with humility the disagreements would vanish. To be humble as Jesus was humble.
4. Obedience [P]: we like to do things our own way; submission is alien to our human nature. We are told to do something: “Why should I?” is our response. If we simply obeyed we would be working together in harmony, in accord with God’s will. To obey as Jesus obeyed.
5. Sacrifice [P]: we look at the amazing and overwhelmingly costly sacrifice of Jesus [1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.] look how much He sacrificed, gave up, it cost Him dear – but we are prepared to give up so little. If this mind was in us – how much more we would be in harmony. Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus. Look, I know, it is impossible – it takes a miracle, the work of God. But this He does by His Spirit whom He has given us: [1 Corinthians 2:12-16 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, …. . But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ!] There is an old hymn that goes: “May the mind of Christ my Saviour; live in me from day to day; by His love and power controlling; all I do and say.”
But let us close, not with our focus on ourselves but on Him who has been highly exalted:
He is LORD, He is LORD;
He is risen from the dead and He is LORD;
Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess;
That Jesus Christ is LORD!