Sermon on Philippians 2:5-11
Text: In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming 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 acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
A man traveled to Palestine and, as he traveled the land, he came across a shepherd. As they walked along, the traveler noticed an older sheep that walked with a noticeable limp, which never strayed very far from the shepherd. When the traveler asked about the sheep, the shepherd responded by saying, ‘Soon after that sheep was born, I noticed that it was partially deaf. As a little lamb, it persisted in straying from the fold, where it could no longer hear my voice. After having saved it again and again, I finally had to inflict that injury on that leg myself. Ever since then, that sheep has limped, but it has never strayed.’ That picture of the sheep limping may seem sad to us, but it does also teach us about our relationship with our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Sometimes, he allows things to happen to us to keep us close to him. We are told in our text to have the same attitude as Jesus did. This week, we will focus on Jesus’ suffering and death, but also on Jesus’ glorious resurrection. LET US, then, FOLLOW JESUS FROM CROSS TO CROWN. 1. God’s Ways Are Sometimes Painful. 2. God’s Ways Always Lead To Glory.
Our text begins with a truth of Scripture that is taught having to do with the natures of Christ. It starts out by saying “being in very nature God.” (Verse 6) Jesus was true God. As the Son of God from all eternity, he had all of the powers and attributes of God. He was always God.
However, we are also told, “(He) made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Verse 7) When it says he “made himself nothing,” literally it means that he emptied himself out. He gave up the full use of his heavenly powers and glory. This happened when the divine nature of Christ took on the human nature. This occurred when he was “conceived by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary.” He was a man. We see this from the fact that Jesus got hungry. He got thirsty. He slept. He wept. He died. He was completely a human being, just like us, with one important exception. He was sinless. He was a human being, having given up the full use of his heavenly power and glory. They were not taken from him. Nor did he cease to be God, as is evidenced by the many miracles he performed. Only God could do the things that Jesus did. Jesus remained God.
Here our weak minds run into trouble. Jesus was and is completely God — 100%. Jesus was and is completely human — 100%. Our minds cannot figure out how this can be. How could Jesus be both 100% God and 100% man at the same time? The “how” is not the important issue, however. The Bible teaches it as true, and so we accept it. What is important, however, is why Jesus had to be both God and man. Jesus needed to be true God in order to be sinless. If Jesus would have had both a human father and mother, he would have been born sinful. We learn this from the Scriptures. David speaks of this natural sin in Psalm 51:5 when he says, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Jesus needed to be God in order to be sinless, in order to keep the law perfectly for us.
St. Paul tells us why Jesus had to be true man: “taking the very nature of a servant.” (Verse 7) We are all under God’s law. We, because we are human beings, are subject to God’s will. Jesus became a man to make himself subject to the law. Because he was God, he was able to keep the laws perfectly for us. He also had to be true man to die for us: “being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Verse 8) Jesus’ humility went beyond his birth and simple life. It led him to death, a death which was normally reserved for the worst of criminals. Jesus died on the cross, the cruelest form of execution that mankind has come up with. We will again this week focus our attention on that cross. We will see Jesus as he suffered and died. Even worse than the physical sufferings that Jesus underwent were the pains of soul. God the Father punished Jesus for the sins of the entire world. You and I rightly deserved to be punished for our sins. We should have suffered what Christ suffered. Hear the depth of Jesus’ agony as he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) All the agony of the cross was suffered for our sakes. Every painful hour was underwent because of our sins. Jesus became a human being so that he could die for us. All of our sins were paid for on that cross, but look at the price the Father exacted from his Son! The way to our salvation led Jesus to the cross, where he willingly gave up his life for us. When we see Jesus on the cross, we cannot help by be reminded that, sometimes, God’s ways are painful.
This is also true in our lives. God’s ways are sometimes painful. Why? Why does God allow pain in our lives? Why are we called upon to bear crosses? This first thing we need to realize is that it is not because of punishment. Jesus was punished for us. However, God, at times, does allow chastenings to come into our lives. God may allow these things to bring us back to him. We may have been straying like that sheep at the beginning of our sermon. He wanted to keep us close to himself. The fact is, we may never know why God leads us down a path of suffering. God may never make it clear to us, during this lifetime. Whatever the case, we are still confident that God has our best interests in mind. We have promises that tell us this like Romans 8:28, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This verse helps us when we are on those painful paths that God leads us upon. We also remember that Jesus did not complain when his path led him down the painful path of the cross. He submitted himself to his Father’s will. May we do the same. May God help us to patiently bear all of those things that come into our lives. We are comforted with the fact that God will never leave us, nor will he give us more than we can handle. As the hymnist wrote, When life’s troubles rise to meet me, Though their weight May be great, They will not defeat me. God, my loving Savior, sees them; He who knows All my woes Knows how best to end them.” (CW 428 v. 2) May this be our comfort when God’s ways lead us to painful places.
Jesus underwent the worst pain that anyone has ever felt. He suffered the pains of hell so that we might be set free from sin, death and the devil. This took place on Good Friday. However, that day is the 2nd most important day in the world’s history. Three days later, Jesus burst through the gloom of death when he rose from the dead. The path that led to a cross continued on. He went from cross to crown.
St. Paul describes it in this way, “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.” (Verse 9) While we, earlier, spoke of Jesus’ humiliation as he gave up the full use of his heavenly powers, we now turn our attention to Jesus’ exaltation. After Jesus completed his work, God exalted him. God gave him a place of honor and glory. This started when Jesus rose from the dead and, as we confess in the Apostles Creed, “descended into hell.” His descent was not to suffer. All suffering had been completed. Jesus’ descent into hell was a victory parade. We see Jesus exalted as he showed himself alive on Easter morning. We see it as Jesus returned to heaven to again sit at his Father’s right hand. Jesus entered into the glory that was his, because he is the Son of God.
Part of this exaltation, Paul says is “(He) gave him a name that is above every name.” (Verse 9) There have been and there will be others with the name of “Jesus.” However, as it says in Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Only by believing in Jesus is there salvation. This is a great honor that God has given to his Son. This is the only way in which a person can be saved. By believing in Jesus, as he reveals himself in Holy Scripture, is the one way to salvation. To trust in another or to teach incorrectly about Jesus leads only to eternal punishment. To reject Jesus means to spend an eternity in hell. However, for those who have been led by the Holy Spirit to trust in Jesus, there is an eternity of bliss in heaven. This is a part of Jesus’ exaltation.
St. Paul continues: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Verses 10-11) There will come a time when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that truth concerning Jesus. This will happen when Jesus returns at the end of time as Judge. Then all the world will see Jesus for whom he was. Those who rejected Jesus will make this confession reluctantly. They now see Jesus as true God. They, now, must confess Jesus as the only way to salvation. To their eternal shame, they will be cast away from God forever. However, the believers will joyfully confess that Jesus is Lord as he approaches. Finally, their struggle with the sinful world is at an end. Finally, they will be with the Lord forever. Just as the crowds welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem that Palm Sunday, so all believers will welcome him back to the earth. This is all done to the glory of the Father. His plan of salvation is completed. All of his children are gathered home. All who rejected him will be punished. God is a just God. Those who rejected him will be punished, but those whose robes have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb will be with him forever in heaven. Many times in the Bible, especially in the book of Revelation, we see Jesus sitting on a throne in glory. Indeed, he went from cross to crown. God’s way led to glory.
This is also true for the Christian, who suffers during this lifetime. At times, it may seem to be more than we can bear. However, God promises us in Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” If we continue to hold fast to our God, if we cling to him with the hands of faith, we know that, no matter what sorrows may come our way, we have a crown of life waiting for us. Let us continue to look to God for help. Let us follow the example of Jesus and willingly submit our lives to God’s will. For, we see that, although God’s ways are sometimes painful, they always lead to glory. May we hold to that hope and let us live as God’s children.
A number of years ago, I heard of a church in Florida that was struck by the forces of a hurricane. When the congregation members came to the church, to their horror, they found that their beautiful stained glass window had blown in. Glass was everywhere. One man carefully collected every shard of glass he could find from that window. He went home and began to make a new window from the pieces of glass. It took a number of years, but, when it was finished, the window was even more beautiful than before. May we learn a lesson from that window. God may allow our lives to completely shatter, but he also collects all of the pieces and puts our lives back together again, even better than they were before. This will especially be true when we enter heaven. Even the happiest days here on this earth are tinged with sadness. Only when we reach heaven will all of the sorrows be gone. May we cling to that hope, knowing God is there, every day, to help us. Although God’s ways are sometimes painful, they always lead to glory. We saw this with Jesus and, we can be assured, we will see it for ourselves, as we follow Jesus from cross to crown. Amen.
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