Christ’s Humility Is Deeper Than You Might Think

Recently, as I’ve taught various classes and Bible studies recently, I’ve found myself saying something like the following quite a bit: “Just take a moment to slow down and think about what that really means.” At least in my case, I know I can quickly read over a passage of Scripture—especially those that I’ve read many times before—and fail to register the enormity of what’s being expressed.

For example, consider the Paul’s great description of Christ’s humility contained in Philippians 2. The relevant verses read as follows:

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.

“That’s a wonderful picture of what Christ has done, a passage that really demonstrates his humility,” we might say. “God the Son became a man and suffered on the cross. Isn’t that something?” With this impression, we’re tempted to move on. After all, most of us have heard this a few times before.

But hold on. Let’s slow down to think about the significance of what Paul is really saying. Consider the following:

1. Jesus, like the Father and the Holy Spirit, rightfully possessed and possesses all the infinitude, all the incalculable power, stunning glory, and unrivaled status of the Creator, Sustainer, and Lord of all there is. He is by very nature God.

2. Yet Jesus didn’t feel the necessity of holding on or retaining (the sense of the term “grasped” here) and exercising all the privileges and power of his Godhood.

3. Instead, at the will of the Father, he “made himself nothing”—the idea is that he emptied or poured himself into the form of a man, servant. In some mysterious way, God the Son voluntarily became a human being, complete with all the finitude and limitations involved. Given that his existence as God is so far beyond our own existence, any analogy used to express this event is almost hopelessly strained. To compare it to a human being becoming an ant is giving us way to much credit. The amount of condescension involved is, quite frankly, incomprehensible. If we were to stop the story here, we’ve already run up against a truth we can’t possibly plumb the depths of. But, amazingly there’s more.

4. Christ not only became a man, but he followed the path of obedience even to the point of suffering a mortal death. The immortal, omnipotent, unconquerable God takes a form that leads him to experience something completely alien to who he is.

5. And not just any death. A death that served as the culmination of several episodes of suffering and ridicule. A death that was infamous for its physical agony. A death that was completely undeserved. A death that was likely approved of even by some he came to save. A death that amounted to the greatest crime that humanity has ever committed. A death he could have prevented by his power, a power that could have easily incinerated his foes and vindicated him as being the rightful Lord of all who stood watching.

All of that gives us a picture of Christ’s (I’m running out of the appropriate adjectives) humility. That is the path he walked for our salvation and, ultimately, for the glory of God.

And by the way, it’s the mindset that led Christ do all this, all of these things that defy description, that you and I are supposed to adopt ourselves. If Christ was willing give up all that he has in obedience to his Father, how can you and I not be willing to give up that which we posses—the sum total of which is so much less—for the same?

Of course that’s a monumentally tall order. And that’s why it’s important to realize that, like Christ, we can also look forward to God meeting any humility we exhibit with the hope of his hand one day lifting us up. As 1 Peter 5:6 states, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” Certainly it will be in his timing and manner. And I suspect that, like Christ himself, the bulk of it will be on the other side of our mortal death. Even so, my bet is none of us will complain.

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