Christianity 201

May 29, 2014

The Humility of Christ

Somewhere yesterday I read about someone who has memorized Phil. 2: 5-11 and tries to remember to recite it every day. I found that interesting because this is something I do when I wake up in the night and can’t get back to sleep.

Recently I’ve been thinking in particular about these verses:

rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!  (NIV)

This is the core of the text and lists four things:

He entered into the human condition.

John 1:14 states:

14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. (NLT)

The word that’s translated, “the word became flesh” is sarx.  A ‘nicer’ word would have been soma which would imply that God ‘took on a body.’ But sarx implies the nitty-gritty of humankind: The muscles, sinews, bodily processes and all. This is the sum and substance of incarnation. Jesus was 100% human while all the while being 100% divine.

He came as a servant.

Matthew 28 quotes Jesus as saying

28 “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29  Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. (CEB, emphasis added)

The poem “One Solitary Life” says

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman… He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn’t go to college. He never traveled more than 200 miles from the place He was born. He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness…

He could have been born into nobility. He could have established a major organization. He could have  built a religious empire. But rather, he chooses relative obscurity.

Note carefully the contrast between the verse 3 (I’ve added emphasis) and verses 4 and 5 that describe Jesus sharing a Passover meal with his closest disciples in John 13:

Jesus knew that the Father had given him power over everything and that he had come from God and was going back to God. So during the meal Jesus stood up and took off his outer clothing. Taking a towel, he wrapped it around his waist. Then he poured water into a bowl and began to wash the followers’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

I love that he picked up the towel and the basin knowing the extent of the divine power he possessed.

We see this again in Matthew 21, where in his “triumphal entry” — oh, the irony — he chooses to enter the city riding on the back of a donkey.

His human experience included submission to death.

Jesus experienced the full arc of human living, including death. It’s critical that he identifies with us in his death, especially when so many fear end-of-life experiences. But he didn’t simply die in his sleep, we’re told:

He experienced the most tortuous death known to people of his day.

Sometime soon, we’ll look specifically at the doctrine of the suffering of Christ before and during Calvary.  I wanted to focus more on the first two points of the text, and leave room to include a song that we haven’t featured here before. The lyrics are included the video. Meekness and Majesty reminds us of this contrast between his divine attributes even as he submitted himself to earthly life with us.


1 Comment »

  1. Meekness and majesty . . .
    Reminds me of the old hymn of contradictions –
    Make me a captive Lord
    And then I shall be free.
    Force me to render up my sword
    And I shall conqueror be.

    Comment by meetingintheclouds — May 31, 2014 @ 7:04 pm | Reply

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