5 Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:
6 Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
7 But he emptied himself
by taking the form of a slave
and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God highly honored him
and gave him a name above all names,
10 so that at the name of Jesus everyone
in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow
11 and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So this is where it all ends, what it was all about – death on a cross. The One who was “equal with God” becomes “obedient to the point of death,” emptying and humbling himself, descending into ignominy and the obloquy of a hideous death reserved for traitors and runaway slaves! What can all this possibly mean?
Whatever else it means, Paul shows it means that such a way of life, unthinkable as it was for Jesus’ contemporaries and is for us, such a way of life is a God-approved way of life! Stunningly, Paul writes that in consequence of such a life God “highly honored” Jesus, indeed, gave Jesus the name he himself bears. And at the revelation of that name, all creation will bow in confessing him as “Lord,” that is, king and ruler of the world.
Much could be said about the ramifications of Jesus’ journey into “downward nobility” for us this Lent. I want to highlight one item that has been brought into bold relief in the first decade of this 21st century filled as it has been with terrors and tragedies aplenty. It was none other than Dietrich Bonhoeffer who identified this aspect out of his own journey into servanthood, humiliation, and finally death under the Nazi regime during World War II in Germany. In an essay looking back over a decade of struggle, he writes,
“We have for once learnt to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcast, the suspects, the maltreated, the powerless, the oppressed, the reviled – in short, from the perspective of those who suffer”.
Few utterances of any theologian are a poignant and profound as this one. The first ten years of our new century have afforded us chances to learn what Bonhoeffer learned – to see the world from the underside, from the experience of those who victimized by the greats and victors in the world’s struggles, those who cannot or are not allowed to “make it” to success and comfort.
Few learnings are as necessary and urgent as this, especially for Christians in affluent parts of the world. Pray that God not let us miss the window of opportunity for us to enter ever more deeply into the life of the risen Jesus in our world, the same kind of life he lived in Galilee and Jerusalem, the God-appointed, God-life of humble and humbling, risky, nothing-held-back-obedience all the way down!