Philippians 2:5–11 (NRSV)
5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This day is a wonderful day. A day that for centuries we as followers of Christ celebrate the announcement of Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords. The day that the ancients removed their cloaks and waved palm branches singing praises of the son of David entering the city of peace, to restore the kingdom once again. It is a day that was filled with hope, hope beyond the imagination of mankind. But it was also a day filled with fear
Yes it is a day of hope and of fear. That is the resounding discord in our faith, with our hope there is also fear because we do not always know what might happen in the future. Every person of Israel looked toward the great day of their king’s entry with great desire. They studied the signs they knew the prophecies by heart, and they searched diligently for the one that would restore the throne of David ushering in a new age. But right along with that was the ever present reality that they lived every day.
It was a day of fear because they were a people living in excile in their own country. They were an occupied nation ruled by a people that did not have the same values or goals. If the king would actually arrive many would find themselves in the awkard situation of having to make a choice. Would I sacrifice my current comfort for something unknown?
We reguard this question with the luxury of two thousand years of history, we know fully well what happened in those ancient days. We know that Christ came to live among mankind, the grew up within a community of friends and family, he became a teacher that taught us a holy lifestyle, and would give himself as a sacrifiece to redeem and reconcile humanity from the clutches of sin and restore communion with God. We look at this through the pages of history, but what if we had to live that very day?
The people of that day longed for their king and the restored kingdom devoted to their God. But what would happen if this actually happened? What would happen to the lives of the families? What happen to Jesus’ own family that worked as contractors building and repairing the dwellings of those that lived in the area? What would happen to the shepherds whose lives revolved around selling their product to the people living in the land? What would happen if the king came and those that occupied the nation did see that as being a positive prospect to the Empire?
Everyone that lived that day had a very serious question to concider. Would they sacrifice all that they had to side with a king, when their families lives required that they sell their goods to the very same people they hoped drive from their lands? Every individual was required to answer this question for themselves that day, and everyone from that day on has had to answer a very similar question, even to this day. Will we live for the king?
Paul struggled with this question in his own life, and many others as well. Even people that lived outside the Jewish community faced that same question. The only difference is that they people Paul engages has more information than the people in Jerusalem on the day of Jesus’ triumphal entry. They knew that there was life beyond the fear, they heard or saw the glorification of Jesus. The problem with this greater knowledge is that more questions emerge.
The greatest question is why? If Jesus was truly the king and through His Glorification by the resurrection, why not do things differently? Because of this newer question a new crisis of faith emerges, one that mimics the previous and brings to question if God is even at work?
It is a question that plagues us to this very day. If there is truly a benevolent God why does he allow things to continue as they are? Why does this deity remain quiet as the world seems to spin off into darkness and chaos?
Paul says this of Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,” This idea of exploitation or something that could be used for a personal advantage is what seperates the kingdoms of man from that of God. In our wisdom we would see the benefit of God simply moving in and removing all opposition and setting up a kingdom for himself. But what would the benefit of this be? He did that with the nation of Israel before, just read through the book of the Exodus and you will see how God did such a thing. You will also see the results of that action. God stepped in, He provided for every need of the people, they saw his very presence through a pillar of fire or a protective cloud. They ate food delivered directly from heaven that only required that they step outside and collect their daily portion. Yet they complained, they even went to such a degree that they turned their back on this very God that directly provided for their every need.
Jesus was in the form of God, yet he did not regard that as something to be exploited. He had every right to just take whatever he wanted He had the means and the power to do that yet he withheld. He withheld because the awesome use of force may give security but it does not build relationships. The infant nation of Israel wondered forty years with God, very few developed intimacy with the one that provided for their needs. Many feared their God, they demanded that Moses or Aaron speak on their behalf. As a result the only ones that saw the reality of God were the ones that humbly approached.
Paul continues to explain, “[But] emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.” Very few understood the nature of God in the early era of Israel, in reality only Moses experienced this in the fullest degree. Moses lived as a prince in the palace of Egypt, and became like a slave with the people of his birth. After he killed one of the guards he ran to exile only to become the servant of God to bring the people out of enslavement. It was only when Moses was obedient to God, becoming the instrument of God’s redemption that Moses began to embrace the relationship with God. Obedience and submission, sacrifice and faith. God directed Moses to do some strange things holding his arms up in the air for hours so that the waters would remain parted and the people could walk on dry ground, or using the shepherd’s staff to bring water from a rock or to purify putrid waters into something that could be consumed. But in this obedience the people were willing to listen and follow. Jesus emptied himself and became a slave to the people, taking on our very form and the trapping that this would cause and he gradulally called his followers one by one.
He being equal with God and fully capable of removing all that opposed him, decided to take a different approach. He chose the path of relationship.
Paul encourages us to be of the same mind, or embrace the reality of who you truly are in Christ. We are to live the same way becoming servants to the world even though in reality if we are in Christ we are God’s children princes and princesses of the king.
Have we every really considered the fullness of this? We are brothers and sisters of the king, anything we ask in his name can happen, yet even this is something that should not be exploited or be used to our personal advantage. There is a reason we were taught to pray, “Not my will but yours.” If we seek our own will instead of seeking to be obedient to God we miss the abundance and blessing true relationships can bring and the world does not see God through us.
Paul tells us that we are already in Christ, but even that reality should not be something we exploit to rule over other. We should instead have the same mind as Christ. To live obedient even to the point of death. We return back to the fear casting a shadow over this day that we celebrate the triumph of our king. What would happen if we were to yield fully to Christ? What would happen if we became servants of each other and the world instead of using our position in Christ for our own purposes? Would we be willing to sacrifice the comfort of our lifestyles and that of our family for the sake of the kingdom?
Yesterday as I spent the day with my family eating and celebrating this season I began considering this even more. Whenever I go home there is a comfort that flood my soul when I begin to see the grass covered rolling hills and the rich fields of wheat. Every time I go home there is part of me that just wants to stay to return to that life. I want to climb into a tractor, feed the cattle, laugh with my family as we play games and enjoy life together. Yet there is another part of me that would never find rest if I remained. I am in Christ and that reality cannot be exploited. In Christ I have a calling something deep with my soul, even though I want to stay home I must respond.
I observe this in my own life, but I am by no means perfect. I cannot stay in the life I had before. I often wonder if anything I have to say or do really matters, yet I am not my own. I am a servant of the king. When we respond to live life in His kingdom we cannot think or act as we did before. All we are and have are redirected to his glory as we become new in him. All we have and all we are should not be used for ourselves but should be used to expand his kingdom as we join in His life and lifestyle. So only one question remains as we enter into this time of open worship and communion as friends. One question to consider this Palm Sunday, are you willing to give all you have to your king?