Friday, December 28, 2012

From Deity to Death: Jesus 8 Steps Down

So What? has been a popular article on this blog. It compares Jesus’ act of washing His disciples’ feet with Philippians 2:5-11. So, when my pastor preached an incredible sermon a few weeks ago on this same passage, I knew I had to get his permission to pass his message along to you! (If you haven’t read So What? – you might want to; you can do so by clicking here. Don’t worry, we’ll wait.)

His sermon, From Deity to Death, went through eight steps Jesus took in descending from His glory in heaven to His death on the cross. Although this sounds like it might make a good Easter sermon, our study of the book of Philippians brought us to this passage in mid-December – a time when the birth of Christ was forefront in my mind. This different holiday perspective led me to text our pastor later, “The step from deity to humanity was a greater descent than that from humanity to crucifixion.”

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God…” (Phil. 2:5-6)

Jesus let go of His equality with God
“…did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,” (Phil. 2:6)

Jesus is the second person of the Godhead but He didn’t hold on tightly to what was His. All the glories of heaven were rightfully His and yet, He released them.

Jesus was our example to let go of our rights.

Jesus emptied Himself of who He was
“but made himself nothing” (Phil 2:7)

Jesus emptied Himself of any personal advantages or privileges entitled to the Son of God. He nullified His position and His power. Yes, He cleansed, healed, and performed miracles – but always in reference to the will of the Father.

He emptied Himself of His glory, the benefits of His attributes, and His position; He was now despised rather than glorified. He emptied Himself of honor, adoration, and eternal intimacy with the Father.

Jesus was our example to empty ourselves of what we think is due us.

Jesus took on the form of a servant
“taking the very nature of a servant,” (Phil 2:7)

Jesus became a slave, a bond servant in every sense of the word. He owned nothing – no land, no house, no animals. Even at His death, everything was borrowed. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” Mark 10:45.

Jesus was our example of humility; He Himself said, “no servant is greater than His master” (John 13:16). Let me add something here – Jesus said those words as He washed the disciples’ feet. So What? See how once again these two passages are fitting together?

Jesus was made in the likeness of a man
“being made in human likeness.” (Phil. 2:7)

The Creator and King of kings took His place among common man. He wasn’t given, nor did He allow Himself to receive any special treatment. In the beginning, Creator God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26). However, sin entered the world. In order to provide redemption, God instead was now made in the likeness of a man.

Jesus was our example to sacrifice for others.

Jesus appeared as a man
“And being found in appearance as a man,” (Phil 2:8)

Jesus became 100% man. So thorough was His humanity that, apart from the declaration of angels, the Father, and Jesus Himself, those around Him wouldn’t have known that He was God in the flesh. Jesus appeared as a normal, regular person.

The King of kings – the Lord of lords – God in the flesh suffered. He wasn’t rugged and handsome; nor was He royal and kingly looking. He was unknown and rejected. Few realized that He was different.

Jesus’ success wasn’t about beauty, fame, power, fashion, or money. His number of followers didn’t even determine His success. His accomplishment of the task for which the Father had sent Him determined His success.

Jesus was our example that obedience to God is our definition of success. Our success is not about our appearance and how others perceive us. We don’t have to have special insight, a large following, glory, or money. We base our success on how God perceives us.

Jesus humbled Himself
“he humbled himself” (Phil. 2:8)

God became flesh, common man, unrecognized by almost all – but that wasn’t enough. Jesus humbled Himself; literally, He laid low.

In our early steps, Jesus lowered Himself in relation to God as He let go of His equality with God and emptied Himself of who He was. Now we see that He lowered Himself in relation to mankind – people whom He had created!

The peak of Jesus laying Himself low was during the latter days of His ministry – His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Those He had created mocked Him, falsely accused Him, spit upon Him, beat Him, and scourged Him. They left Him naked and bloody.

Yet, He never defended Himself, never expressed bitterness, and never accused. He actually prayed for them. He didn’t demand His rights as God; He didn’t even demand His rights as a man.

Jesus was our example to lay ourselves low when others rise up against us.

Jesus obeyed unto death
“and became obedient to death” Phil. 2:8

Romans 5:19 says, “through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” Jesus is the only one who will die solely because of His attitude of obedience. You and I will die whether we’re obedient or not, but not Jesus. The only reason He died was because of obedience.

He came to do His Father’s will – the theme of His life. Jesus chose obedience unto death because it was the will of the Father. Before His arrest, Jesus said, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (John 10:17-18).

Jesus was our example of obedience – even in extreme situations.

Jesus died on a cross
“—even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:8)

John the Baptist was beheaded, Steven was stoned, and Jesus could have died one of many different ways. But His way was the death of the cross. The death reserved for slaves, the lowest of criminals, and enemies of Rome.

Jesus became a curse because of the type of death He endured; “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13)

Crucifixion was a physical torment unlike any other. Jesus’ crucifixion was a mental torment as His people rejected Him. His was a spiritual torment as the Father forsook him. Jesus final step of humility was to be mistreated unmercifully.

Jesus was our example – not to allow ourselves to be mistreated by others for no apparent reason – but rather, that “it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps" (1 Peter 2:19-21).

Eight Steps used by permission of Jerry Tharp (adapted from John MacArthur Commentary Series)

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