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“Your Attitude Should Be the Same as that of Christ Jesus”
Philippians 2:5-11


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Palm Sunday—April 5, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The New Testament tells us almost nothing about the childhood of Jesus.  Over the centuries, this gap has inspired some very imaginative legends.  One such legend says that when Jesus was playing hide and seek with some other children, they hid so well that Jesus couldn’t find them, so he turned them all into goats.  Another legend says one of Jesus’ playmates threw a rock at him, and so Jesus looked at the boy, and he fell down dead.  When the other parents complained about these things to Joseph, they were all blinded.*

Those legends are just made-up stories that really tell us nothing at all about Jesus, but those legends DO tell us something about ourselves.  Because, what those legends really reflect is the way any of us would act if we possessed unlimited, divine power.  Those legends tell us that we humans are selfish and self-centered.

But, in today’s Epistle Reading from the second chapter of Philippians, St. Paul explains to us that in his earthly life our Lord did not use his divine powers for himself, but he voluntarily humbled himself by not fully using his divine powers and not fully revealing his divine glory.  My own translation of our text is printed on the bulletin insert, alongside the New International Version.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, existing in God’s form, did not consider His being equal with God a thing for self-glorification.”  Jesus did not use his divine powers to glorify himself or serve himself or save himself.  If Jesus had fully used his divine powers he would not have accomplished his mission of salvation, for it would have been impossible for mere men to put him to death by nailing him to a cross.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, those who came to arrest Jesus fell to the ground just at the sound of his voice.  “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” Jesus asked.  “But then how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way.”

After forty days of fasting in the wilderness, Satan tempted Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”  Use your divine powers to serve yourself!  Satan then led him to the highest point of the temple and said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.”  Use your divine powers to glorify yourself!  Even the crowd around the cross taunted Jesus, “If you are the Christ, the Son of God, save yourself!”  Use your divine powers to save yourself!  But, instead, he humbled himself and gave himself up for us.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, existing in God’s form, did not consider His being equal with God a thing for self-glorification, but He emptied Himself by taking a servant’s form when in human likeness and, being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself.”  Jesus emptied himself and humbled himself in his earthly life by not fully using his divine powers and not fully revealing his divine glory.

People sometimes speculate what Jesus looked like.  You probably picture him with unusually stunning, striking features and perhaps a halo around his head.  But actually, in his earthly life Jesus appeared to people so normal and ordinary that when he began preaching in Nazareth the people he grew up with said, “Where did this man get these things? . . . he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? . . .  And they took offense at him.”  Because Jesus humbled himself in his earthly life by not using fully using his divine powers and not fully revealing his divine glory, the people he grew up with thought he was just a carpenter and could not accept who he really is: God in human flesh.

“He emptied Himself by taking a servant’s form when in human likeness and, being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by being obedient unto death—even death on a cross!”  Jesus said, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Why did Jesus empty himself “by taking a servant’s form when in human likeness”?  Why did Jesus humble himself “by being obedient unto death—even death on a cross!”?  “To give his life as a ransom for many.”  St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that through his poverty you might become rich.”  The riches Jesus earned for you by the poverty of his humiliation is forgiveness of all your sins.  St. Paul says in Romans, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”  “He humbled Himself by being obedient unto death—even death on a cross!”

“Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place.”  “The third day He rose again from the dead.”  St. Paul says in Romans, “He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies,” and in 2 Corinthians, “The one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus.”  The resurrection of Jesus Christ means that you will rise from the dead to eternal life.  Jesus promises, “Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

“God exalted Him to the highest place.”  “He rose again from the dead, He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”  St. Paul says in Ephesians, “He raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.”  His mission of salvation complete, his earthly humiliation ended, Jesus is now reigning in heavenly glory.

“God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name.”  St. Peter says in Acts, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  That is why the name of Jesus is above every name, because only through faith in him are we saved.  St. Peter says, also in Acts, “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

“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.”  St. Paul says in Romans, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, existing in God’s form, did not consider His being equal with God a thing for self-glorification, but He emptied Himself by taking a servant’s form when in human likeness and, being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by being obedient unto death—even death on a cross!”

What is the practical application in your everyday life of Jesus’ humbling himself for your salvation?  St. Peter says, “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”  Just as Jesus humbled himself and gave himself up for you, you in humility will give yourself up for others.  St. Paul puts in this way in today’s epistle reading: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

Amen.

*James, Montague Rhodes, The Apocryphal New Testament.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924; Schneemelcher, Wilhelm, New Testament Apocrypha.  Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991.

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