Roger's Postings

Friday, March 26, 2010

Philippians 2:5-11. The cross is central!! 28/3/10

(5) Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: {6} Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, {7} but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. {8} And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! {9} Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, {10} that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, {11} and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Here we are now at Palm Sunday, the linking Sunday between Lent and Easter. Here in the coming of the King we are drawn to that which makes for greatness; first of all in Jesus, but then also for us. In this reading, we are told that, Our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. For it is there alone that we can be a part of greatness. There then, we find that which is important for us to think about. Death and the cross is central: to Christ and to us.

But hang on, I can hear humanity cry! That is not greatness! That surely is not what Life is all about! Surely, our greatness is in being more and more like God. That is the striving of every religion across the globe: to be more like God; or to find the god that is within in us; and the like. In fact, the whole of humanity is striving to be equal with God, in terms of being able to extend life out as long as we possibly can; or to be able to create life and all kinds of good things for ourselves and for our glory. We are constantly seeking to do all kinds of things, so that we can do away with God in our lives and to be self-sufficient. We consider equality with God as something that is to be grasped. For there we believe that we can have life in all of its greatness.

However, here God is telling us that our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. Who even though 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!
Here it is spelt out quite clearly that Jesus Christ was by his very nature God. He was in every way equal to the Father, having the same glory and power. However, he did not consider this equality with God something to be grasped. Even though he was in every way God, he did not regard this as something that must be held onto at all costs. In fact, he was willing to give up his privileges and take on the form of a servant.

He gave away everything he had, because of the will of the Father, and for our good. His whole focus was not on himself and his achievements and glory. We are told that he made himself nothing: he gave up everything that we would consider important. In other words, in order to accomplish salvation for humanity, he did not always and fully use his divine nature. In fact, he took on himself the very nature of a servant. He places himself in humble obedience to his Father and takes on the form of a lowly, frail, expendable servant.

He does this by being made in human likeness. He became fully a human being like you and I, except that he was without sin; and came to live in our fallen and sinful world; being tempted just as we are; going through all that we go through, and even more in his suffering and death. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! So he becomes like us in every way and then even willingly gave up his life for the sake of humanity. He allowed himself to be executed on the cross, taking God’s judgement for the sin of humanity, on himself, so that we might have forgiveness for our sin, and the assurance of life and salvation.

There we have the very basest and most important form of Jesus Christ’s coming into our world. He gave up everything, becoming the lowest of the low, and suffering the very worst that can happen to anyone; to the point of becoming totally forsaken by his Father. All this he did for you and me, and the salvation of humanity.

There it is that we have true greatness. There it is that we have the pivotal point and the pivotal event in all of history. Jesus death on the cross for the sins of humanity is the central and most important happening that has ever and will ever take place. There is true greatness. There is the one thing that is truly important for us.
As a result of what Jesus did there, 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.

After going to the lowest of low for us, God then lifts him up to the highest place possible. He is placed at the right hand of his throne. As God and man he is now lifted up and placed as the key focus of all. There he is given the name that is above every name. So great is the title that now belongs to Jesus that universal honour must be given to him. At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. The angels and all those who are saved will give him honour and glory. So also, will the devil and all those who have rejected Jesus, have to finally and grudgingly, fall on their knees before him and acknowledge that he truly is Lord of all.

Yes, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus Christ now has the title which places his name above all others. When the name Jesus Christ is spoken, every knee will bow, because God has highly honoured this name above every other name in acknowledgement of what Jesus has done for the salvation of the world. He is Lord over all lords and King over all kings. He is the greatest. He and his death on the cross is central and most important: that is the greatest.

Here we are also, in giving honour and glory to Jesus and his death on the cross, giving the glory of God the Father. So close is the relationship between Jesus and the Father, that when the Son is glorified so is the Father. When every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, the Father also receives glory and honour.

So, now in the humiliation and exaltation of Jesus we can see what is central to the Christian Faith. The cross is what is all important.

It is here that we need to again return to the first verse of our text: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. How on earth can we do what Jesus has done? Surely, there is no way that we can follow that? Yet that is the call! That is the expectation!

It is here that we need to look, not to ourselves and what we can do, but to God and that which he himself has given to us in this regard. Let us remember that he has given us baptism, which connects us to the Lord Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection.

In our baptism we have been confronted by the fact that we were nothing, and incapable of becoming equal with God in any way shape or form. Because of sin, we were already the lowest of the low, and unable to lift ourselves out of the muck that we were in. We were already dead in our sin, even if we were humanly alive, and deserved to be forsaken by God completely and cast into hell for eternity. So as we where brought to the baptismal font we were acknowledging this depravity and hopelessness of our nature. But there however, we find that Christ himself has descended right down to our level to provide a way out for us.

We were there at the Baptismal Font because of God’s promise that even though we were dead and deserved to be forsaken by God, that there through baptism God would join us to Christ and his death on the cross and to his resurrection. So in baptism we died with Christ because of our sin, but were also raised to new life with Christ and are therefore also connected in a hidden way to his exaltation. We have forgiveness of sins and also the assurance of salvation and eternal life with our Lord and Saviour. So it is there in Christ and his death on the cross that we find that which is central and of basic importance to us and to our salvation.

Now that being the case, we too no longer need to consider equality with God something to be grasped. Even though we are God’s children we can make ourselves nothing and take the very nature of a servant; giving ourselves in obedience and submission to God, and for the wellbeing of the people around about us. At the name of Jesus our knee can bow, and our tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
For to God alone, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, belongs all glory and honour, now and always.
AMEN

Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

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