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December 3

Scripture Reading

Philippians 2:5-11

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 emptied himself, by 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.

Reflection

This is one of the most theologically rich passages in all of scripture. (For a sermon on this passage, see The Fashion of God). A few short verses cover a lot of ground about Jesus. It starts with the pre-existence of Christ, then his incarnation, his death on the cross, and ends with his return from heaven as the Lord of Heaven and Earth.

This passage gives a little background before his birth with two sets of contrasts.


Form of God vs form of a human

Jesus is God and is equal with God the Father in his essence (John 1:1). But he added on the form of a human being, a servant. Why did Jesus do this? Among other reasons, he likely did this so that he could experientially understand humans. By becoming fully human, Jesus was able to understand experientially the pain, the agony, the travails, the temptations, the limitations, and the problems of being a human being. Thus,

‘he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted’ (Hebrews 2:17-18).

Equality versus emptying.

Jesus was equal with God in essence and in the expression of deity. He could have continued in this equality with God for an eternity into the future. If he had done this, humans would have been doomed to eternal damnation. Instead, Jesus chose to empty himself of the glory of his deity. The glory of deity is not deity itself. Jesus did not let go of his deity; he did not stop being God. However, he let go of the external manifestation of the deity, the expression of the deity.


I have often wondered why Jesus did this. We can get some clarification when we look at another encounter that Jesus had with his disciples. This time it was on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17). Here the disciples got to see the less inhibited glory of Jesus for a brief moment. The response of the disciples is fascinating. They fell face-down in worship because they could not handle the visible manifestation of God’s essence. This may be why Jesus emptied himself of the external glory of God, so that he could have a human relationship with people.


But, a time will come when human senses can handle the glory of God. At that time, we will be able to see Jesus in His vast array of opulent majesty, and then we will be able to worship Him as He is. But until then we worship the little we know, the Jesus revealed to us through the Bible. Because of his humility in the incarnation, because of his sacrifice on the cross, Jesus has become the Name at which every knee will bow.


Lyrics:

Alleluia, Alleluia

Christ, the Savior of the world

He has come!

Alleluia, Alleluia

To the highest name of all, Alleluia


The heavens roar, the Angels sing

All glory to our God and King!

O night Divine forevermore, Alleluia



Notes

Song: A Christmas Alleluia, Chris Tomlin.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV®Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright© 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Picture: Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash



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