Humiliation and Exaltation
Philippians 2:5-11, Epistle Reading for Palm Sunday
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so 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.
Though Christ Jesus is equal to God the Father, possessing all the riches of the Divine Majesty, He “made Himself nothing” (Phil 2:7) for our sake, becoming poor so that we might become rich with forgiveness of sins and eternal life (2 Cor 8:9). God the Son, who created us, laid aside everything He had and became our servant in order to redeem us, giving His life as a ransom for the sins of all people (Mark 10:45). The clause “being made in human likeness” is more literally “being born in likeness to men.” His birth was like ours and He is fully human as all of us. He came to save humans, “the offspring of Abraham,” by taking our flesh and dying “to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:16-17). What a wonderful mystery, that our God loved us so much that He became a tiny embryo in the womb of Mary, grew up to live a perfect life in our place, and humbled Himself to the point of dying for us on the cross!
In His state of humiliation, Jesus lives out Matthew 5:3-5, the first three Beatitudes about being poor in spirit, mourning, and being meek or lowly. Being poor in spirit refers to a person standing before God as a beggar who expects no rewards but can only ask for mercy. God the Father exalted the humble Jesus and granted Him the kingdom of heaven. Though Jesus mourned in the anguish of death on the cross, His Father comforted Him in the Resurrection. The meek and lowly Jesus suffered patiently on the cross without resentment and His Father granted Him authority over all of heaven and earth (cf. Matt 28:18). Because of the grace of Christ, we are truly “blessed.”
According to Philippians 2:8, nobody humbled Jesus—Jesus humbled Himself! He had the authority to lay down His life and take it up again (John 10:17). The Father loved the world and so sent His only Son (John 3:16). The Son loves the Father and so desires to do the Father’s will. On account of this, God the Father has exalted Jesus above all things in heaven and on earth because of all that He had done during His state of humiliation—His Incarnation, life of obedience, suffering, and death.
Jesus exemplifies His own teaching that “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt 23:12). Jesus did not even “count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Phil 2:6) and thereby showed His perfect humility in laying aside His divine prerogatives. God the Father has now exalted Jesus’ human nature above all things since Jesus, as God the Son, always remained exalted. Now Jesus exercises “all authority in heaven and on earth” according to both His divine and human natures (Matthew 28:18). God became no less, but Man has been exalted above all creation, as the Ascension hymn so beautifully states:
He has raised our human nature
On the clouds to God’s right hand;
There we sit in heav’nly places,
There with Him in glory stand.
Jesus reigns, adored by angels;
Man with God is on the throne.
By our mighty Lord’s ascension
We by faith behold our own. (LSB 494:5)
Prayer: O God, through the humiliation of Your Son You raised up the fallen world. Grant to Your faithful people, rescued from the peril of everlasting death, perpetual gladness and eternal joys; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Prayer requests: Lynn Cottle, as she recovers in rehabilitation, and her husband Joe, as he patiently awaits her return home; Bessie Mahaffey and Alma Gause, under hospice care.