We’ve all had this happen. We’re standing at the pantry door looking for something like a can of creamed corn or a special spice or a jar of spaghetti sauce. In exasperation we announce that we can’t find it, maybe we’re out. Then our spouse comes over, slightly moves a can of green beans and there it is. At this point, my mom would say, “If it was a snake it would have bit you.” Maybe this just happens to me. Somethings seem to hide in plain sight, we see but we don’t see. Our next passage in Philippians is like that. Paul’s point can be “hidden” if we are not careful hearers.
In our fifth installment of Walking Through Philippians, Paul underlines an attitude he presented in the previous verses. To recap, Paul presented seven attitudes and actions that support and grow unity with each other. Those are whole-hearted agreement, loving one another, working together with one mind and purpose, putting aside selfishness, giving up trying to impress others, being humble by considering others as better than ourselves, and to look after our interests along with the interests of others. In today’s verses, Paul underscores humility and presents Jesus as its ultimate example.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5–11, NLT)
Did you lose Paul’s point by the time you got to the end of the passage? It’s easy to do. There are essentially three jewels in these verses. The brightest is the Hymn of Jesus that Paul used or penned to make his point. The victory scene where every knee bows to Jesus takes our breath away. And there is Paul’s point that Jesus is the highest example of humility. Let’s take each of these in turn.
Paul writes of Jesus, “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names.” These verses form a kind of creed. Many scholars think this may have been an early hymn that Paul borrowed to make his point. In them we see the grand scope of eternity past, of Christ’s undeniable divinity, the incarnation we celebrate at Christmas, the passion we celebrate at Easter, and we are swept up into heaven as Jesus is exalted above all. In them we find the answer to the most important question ever asked – Who do you say Jesus is? In a few brief lines Paul declares Jesus’ as God, co-equal with the Father. Jesus is not a man that becomes God, he is God that became a man, a slave. He was executed as a criminal. Although Paul doesn’t explicitly mention the resurrection it is part of “Therefore, God elevated him.” But “elevated” loses something in translation because Paul uses a word that proclaims God’s hyper-exaltation of Jesus.
Jesus is the name above all names. Every person, be they angels, humans, or demons will bow their knee in submission to Christ and proclaim His Lordship. There is no name or title or statement higher than Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus, the name given by an angel to Mary before His birth, literally means Jehovah saves. Granted, Jesus is an English way of saying Yeshua. But whether you say Yeshua, Jesu, or Jesus it means the same. Christ, a title that has become more than a title. It’s a declaration of role and purpose but also of accomplishment. It is the English version of a Greek word which bears the same meaning as Messiah, the anointed one. Yet even today it is more than just a title. President, king, and caesar are all similar titles of office. Yet there has been many presidents, many kings, many caesars, but there is only one Christ. Lord, there is no one higher or greater. Jesus is the high king over all other kings. He is the Lord of all other lords. It is not a statement of desire, it is a declaration of fact. Jesus Christ is Lord over all of God’s creation both the obedient and the rebellious. So tell me, what does that mean to you right now?
Do you remember Paul’s point at the start of these verses? (No fair looking) Paul began by presenting Jesus as the ultimate example of humility. “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” Four times he either explicitly or implicitly points out how Jesus humbled himself has an example for us. Even though Jesus was God he did not cling to or grasp or hold on to it. We all know folks that flaunt their position and make sure everyone else knows how special they are. Jesus did not act that way even though he had every right to do so. Jesus’ example is more than not flaunting who He is but also that he willingly became “less than.” Most of us struggle to live up to something, to be seen as significant and needed, perhaps even important. Because of His love for us, He became “less than” in a very big way. Over the years folks have tried to come up with metaphors and allegories to explain what Jesus gave up. All fall short because they can’t express the fullness of being God. One I heard a long time ago compares Jesus becoming a man to that of a man becoming an ant. Paul goes on to say that Jesus humbled himself and took the form of a bond-servant. He became part of creation instead of existing outside and over creation. Lastly, Paul says that Jesus humbled himself in obedience, even to the point of submitting to an undeserved death as a convicted criminal.
So, let’s review Jesus example of humility. 1) Even though He had a position of power He didn’t flaunt it or draw His significance from it. Sometimes we are in a position of authority, sometimes we just think we are. A humble person does not use position as a weapon to demand their own way. 2) He was willing to give up His position for the sake of others. He didn’t stop being who he was but came down to our level. Humility means meeting people where they are at. If we are looking down on someone then there is something wrong with us. 3) Jesus humbled himself has a servant. Not only did Jesus come down to our level but he served. It would be like the President of the United States cleaning the toilets on Air Force One. Humility means serving in whatever capacity is needed, nothing is beneath doing. 4) Jesus humbled himself in obedience to the point of suffering an unjust death. Humility often means paying someone else’s penalty at our own expense. Humility’s down payment is our pride, but its full cost is our life. Jesus said, “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12–13, NLT)
That’s what humility looks like. Are you willing to pay the price? Maybe today’s price for the sake of humility is calling someone you’re mad at to ask forgiveness instead of waiting for them to call you. Maybe today’s price means getting dirty as you clean an elderly person’s gutters or bathroom. Maybe today’s price is your leisure time as you take a neighbor to shopping. Maybe today’s price means parking far from the door instead of taking the closest spot. Maybe today’s price is serving a meal to the homeless. Maybe today’s price is listening to the fifteenth retelling of the same story as if it was the first time. Maybe today’s price is not getting angry when someone else gets the credit. Maybe today’s price for humility is saying thank you when someone moves the green beans so you can see the spaghetti sauce.