Philippians 2 : 5 – 11
‘and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!’
Today, on this ‘Palm Sunday’, we think of Jesus entering Jerusalem in joy and triumph!
Even so, have you noticed how the story is told emphasizing the humility of Jesus?
The letter of the apostle Paul to the Philippians forms the basis of the response we use in worship during this season of Lent … Christ humbled himself and became obedient unto death – even death on a cross! (v. 8)
In the Gospel Reading for today, we have a quote from the Old Testament prophet Zechariah, (Zech. 9:9) which says …
‘see your king comes to you, gentle (or humble) and riding on a donkey’ (Matt. 21:5)
I suspect humility is a quality or characteristic not so well known in our modern world.
Humility is defined …
‘as the act or posture of lowering oneself in relation to others, … or having a clear perspective and respect for ones place in context.’
Now would you say you are a humble person?
Is it even your desire to be humble in spirit? Perhaps the more we think or speak of ourselves as being humble, the less humble we are!
While the less conscious we are of this state of humility, the more humble we become!
Whatever, today Jesus provides for us the focus and image of humility.
As inadequate as I am at this, I will attempt, from God’s word, to paint a picture of Jesus’ humility.
Jesus is God’s own Son. He is the eternal God. He shares the glories of heaven with his Father; yet he always lived in humility before God, his and our dear Father. (v. 6) He didn’t demand the glory!
Jesus only spoke the things his Father told him to speak. He said to the unbelieving Jews: ‘I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.’ (John 12:49)
Jesus only did those things the Father asked him to do. Again, after healing a man on the Sabbath, Jesus said to the angry and disbelieving Jews: ‘the Son can do nothing by himself, he can do only what he sees the Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.’ (John 5:19) Jesus always gave God the Father glory!
Today the apostle Paul most vividly describes the humility of Jesus.
His incomprehensible, obedient, death-embracing humility!
It is the mystery and marvel of God’s kingdom revealing the depth of his love from the bloodshed of Calvary. From the bloodied cross we measure God’s determined purpose to be merciful … to the world!
Jesus teaches, and then he shows the world that there: ‘is no greater love than to lay down one’s life …’ (John 15:13) Jesus willingly and humbly goes to the cross for us.
John records Jesus telling us: ‘The reason the 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 the authority to lay it down and the authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.’ (John 10:17-18)
Here Jesus emphasizes two qualities – love and humility.
The apostle Paul not only points us to the humility of Jesus.
It is in the name of Jesus that he calls us to live in this same spirit of humility in our lives
‘Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus’, he says (v. 6)
God not only calls us to be humble – he grants us the same ability to ‘empty oneself’ or ‘make oneself nothing’ (v. 7) in the service of others, because we are his children. Children who follow the Father!
The call is for us to follow Jesus by: ‘dying to self.’ This is what Jesus means when he says: ‘whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.’ (Matthew 16:25)
This is the paradox of following Jesus. The contrast between our earthly life here and now and the heavenly life God offers. Clinging to earthly life forfeits eternal life; but losing our life now in love for Jesus gains real life. This is the joy of a servant heart!
Do you know that real joy in your life?
The mystery is that when we lose ourselves in the service of something bigger than ourselves, we find real joy in life.
Could it be that Jesus’ model of humility challenges our understanding?
Is there something bigger, foreign even; about God’s humility in Jesus?
When we think about and describe ‘humility’, our minds tend to focus on behaviour or character.
But Jesus models humility thinking … relationships!
His … and God’s relationship with us … and the world!
He thinks of his relationship of love, loyalty and obedience to the Father who loves just as much! For Jesus, it was all about God … and his relationship with his Father.
He thinks about his relationship of love for you … and the world! A love that compels him to take on our human form. To be born a dependent and defenceless baby. A love that leads him to leave the glories of heaven behind, and take on the corruption of sinful humanity! Yes, a love that even demands he ‘be sin’ for the world, all the way to the cross; so that your and my sin can be cancelled forever. A love that surrenders to physical death and the grave. And then, in the power of God’s love, bursts alive from the cold, dark earth; so that we can be welcomed into his kingdom of life!
Yes, the truth is, our humility is also revealed in terms of relationships, isn’t it?
Especially in our relationship with Jesus! By the place that Jesus, God’s own Son has in our hearts.
So what is your relationship with Jesus?
Do you love Jesus? Do you love him for his sake, … or for your own sake? Do you really love him for who he is? God’s own Son, your Lord and Saviour! The one who gave up everything, even his very life, just so that you could become God’s child and heir!
How are you showing that love in your life?
Is Jesus at the very centre of your life? Or is he just someone out there – at arm’s length. Who you can call on, but only as you feel the need! Or just Sundays! Who you can take or leave, just as you like!
So let this be a challenge for every one of us as we model humility.
Humility before God, and humility as God’s people in the world.
As the apostle Paul says: ‘Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.’ (Romans 12:3) So what does it look like in your life?
Is it YOU first, OTHERS second, and JESUS third?
Or is it JESUS FIRST, OTHERS second, and YOURSELF last!
That’s what a heaven blessed humility really looks like! That’s what we get to see in Jesus. That’s what we experience when Jesus is first in our heart and life. Jesus truly brings JOY into our lives.
When you and I discover Jesus’ spirit of humility, then we truly begin to live!
Lord God, grant us something of the humility and gentleness of Jesus!
Hallelujah, Hosanna and Amen.
Pastor Gus Schutz