April 10, 2022
Our Journey Through Lent—
It is a Journey of Both Humility & Exaltation
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Who is the most humble person you know? Why did you pick that individual? One of the most humble people I have ever known was a member of one of the congregations I served. He has now been called home to heaven. He was quiet. He was unassuming. He was gentle. He was the type of person who was not only willing to help you in any way he can— but he would do it with a smile on his face! If I heard that this individual had won some kind of humanitarian award, I would automatically be convinced that he deserved to win it. At the very same time, if I heard that this person had won some kind of humanitarian award I am convinced that he would automatically say that someone else deserves it more than he does. That’s the kind of humble person he was. In my opinion, there are not many people like this here in this world. Personally I have only known a few. Hopefully, you know some too.
As we gather together today to celebrate Palm Sunday we automatically focus on the most humble, the most gentle, the most “helpful” Person who has ever or will ever walk on the face of this earth. That Person is, of course, our Brother and our Savior Jesus Christ. This morning as we wrap up our sermon series entitled Our Journey Through Lent let’s see how this magnificent portion of Philippians chapter two gives us the opportunity to remember that: Our Journey Through Lent is a Journey of both Humility and Exaltation.
Let’s begin with the fact that our journey through Lent is a journey of humility. Since Paul begins our text for today by telling us, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus,” we need to make sure we know what kind of “attitude” Jesus has towards humility. Paul makes this very easy for us by addressing three questions in the first half of our text. Those three questions are: Who is Jesus? What was Jesus willing to do? Why was Jesus willing to do this?
Who is Jesus? Paul answers that question in verse six, “Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” I am completely baffled every time I hear someone say that the Bible never teaches that Jesus is God. I am not sure what Bible they are reading, but the Bible the Holy Spirit has given to us clearly teaches that Jesus is God! What else could the words, “Who being in very nature God” possibly mean!
What, however, is meant by the words, “…did not consider equality with God something to be grasped”? The key to understanding these words correctly is found in the Greek word that is translated here as “grasped.” Very literally this Greek word means “to hold on to.” As we will see in the very next verse, even though Jesus is God, even though Jesus enjoys absolute and complete “equality with God,” He did not consider His “equality with God” as something that He absolutely had to “hold on to” at all costs. He was willing to “let it go” you might say.
That thought leads us directly into our second question, What was Jesus willing to do? The answer to this question is found in verse seven of our text, “…but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” The key words here are the words, “but made himself nothing.” The Greek here brings out that Jesus willingly “emptied himself.” Even though He is “in very nature God,” Jesus was willing to “empty Himself,” He was willing to “set aside” to “let go” of His “equality with God” and take on the “very nature of a servant.” As we confess in the Nicene Creed, the true eternal Son of God became “fully human.”
Why, my friends? Why was the true Son of God willing to humble Himself and become the true Son of Man? There are two parts to the answer to that question. First, look at verse eight, “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” This is the very heart and soul of the Lenten season, isn’t it. This is the very definition of humility. The “Son of the Most High God” (Luke 1:32), the Almighty Creator of the entire universe (John 1:3) had only one goal when He came into this world— to obediently serve His heavenly Father by humbly carrying out the Father’s Plan of Salvation for this world. This Plan required that the Son of God had to humbly serve us by suffering and dying on the cross as our Substitute! (Pointing to the cross) That’s humility! That’s humility the likes of which this world cannot comprehend!
Secondly, why was the “Son of the Most High God” willing to “set aside” His “equality with God” and humble Himself to such a degree? Why was the almighty Creator of the entire universe willing to become “obedient to death— even death on a cross”? While there are many many Scripture passages we could turn to let me share with you just two. In John 15:13 Jesus Himself tells us, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The cross proclaims to you of just how much Jesus loves you! And then in 2 Corinthians 8:9 the Holy Spirit had the apostle Paul reveal to us, “For 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.” The cross proclaims to you just how amazing God’s grace is! The Son of God was willing to set aside the eternal riches of His heavenly home, humbly come into this world as your true Brother so that He could suffer and die for your sins— all so that you can inherit the eternal riches of His heavenly home! That’s grace! That’s grace the likes of which this world cannot comprehend!
Now let’s go back to what Paul said to us in the opening verse of our text, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Just as Jesus’ journey here on this earth was marked by humility, so also the season of Lent reminds us that our journey here on this earth should also be one of humility. To help us understand what that means on a practical/personal level, let’s go back to the same three questions we used in regard to Jesus.
Who are we, my friends? One of my favorite answers to that question is found in I John 3:1, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” God’s love for us is so great that through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism or through the power of His holy Word, He adopted us to be His very own! We now have a status in the eyes of the Living God that is far more precious than anything we could ever possibly deserve! (See also Galatians 3:26-29)
Since by the grace of God we are His dearly beloved children, what are we willing to do? In Philippians 2:3-4 the Holy Spirit says to us, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Since we are the beloved adopted children of God we now strive to follow in our Savior’s footsteps and humbly serve others. Instead of only asking, “What’s in this for me?” instead of only looking out for what’s best for ourselves, like Jesus we focus on what we can do for others. Like Jesus we focus on what is best for the people around us.
Why? Why are we willing to humbly serve others? Why are we willing to consider others better than ourselves and to put their needs ahead of our own? While there are many many passages which answer these questions, let me once again share with you just two. In the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday after Jesus had washed His disciples’ feet, He said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15; See also John 13:34-35). As Christians our goal is to be like Christ here on this earth! When people look at us we want them to be able to see Jesus. When people listen to us we want them to be able to hear Jesus. The second passage is found in 2 Corinthians 5:15 where the Holy Spirit had the apostle Paul remind us, “He (Jesus) died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” Whenever we are wondering why we are to humbly serve others all we need to do is lift up our eyes to the cross. (Pointing to the cross) This cross reminds us that as Christians we humbly serve Christ by humbly serving others!
If we were to end now it might be easy for someone to think that the life of a Christian is rather, how shall we say, unattractive and unexciting. That, however, would be an extremely short-sighted view of the life of a child of God! Look at the second portion of our text, verses 9-11. Did Jesus’ life “end” with His humiliating death and His humble burial? Was “humility” the last word in His obituary? Was “even death on a cross” the last punctuation mark in Jesus’ life? Absolutely not! This magnificent portion of Scripture continues, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 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.”
You and I know that our journey through Lent does not end on Good Friday. After Good Friday comes Easter Sunday! After Easter Sunday comes the Ascension! And after the Ascension comes— Judgment Day! Yes, my friends, we have the joy of knowing that one day Jesus will return to this earth— not in humility, but in exaltation. He will come back in all of His power and majesty and glory surrounded by all of His mighty heavenly angels. On that day everyone will know what we already know— Jesus is God! On that day everyone will kneel before Him and confess what you and I already freely confess— “Jesus Christ is Lord”!
What’s interesting, my friends, is that this portion of our text is also included in Paul’s statement to us, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” How does Jesus’ exaltation apply to us? Look at it this way: Just as Jesus’ exaltation came after His humiliation (pointing to the cross), so also after the humbleness of our life here on this earth comes the exaltation of our eternal life in heaven!
Again, while there are many many portions of Scripture which speak about this truth, let me share with you just two. In Romans 8:18 the Holy Spirit had the apostle Paul remind us, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Whatever your “present sufferings” here on this earth might possibly include, do not let them lead you to lose your focus on the “glory” that Jesus has waiting for you in heaven!
And what does that “glory” include? Jesus gives us a hint of what that glory includes when He says to us in Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Think about it my friends— on the day we are welcomed Home to heaven our Brother Jesus will place the “crown of life” on our head! We will then have the exalted privilege of “reigning with Christ” in His heavenly Kingdom for ever and ever! (See Revelation 20:4-6; Luke 18:36) Oh what glory is awaiting us when the humbleness of this life is over!
Who is the most humble person you know? Obviously, our journey through Lent reminds us that our first response to that question is— Jesus! At the same time, my prayer this morning is that this magnificent portion of God’s holy inspired Word has served as a very good reminder to us that our journey through Lent— like our journey through life— is also a journey of both humility and exaltation.
To God be the glory!