Last week we said that Jesus' greatest glory is that he saves you and me. I never know how well I make my points. As a pastor you think you do when you write the sermon, and then when you preach it, you go away wondering if any of it made sense.
Part of what I was trying to say is that the glory of Jesus is completely upside down from the glory of this world. Which also means that the glory of the Christian will be upside down from the glory of this world. Always remember that the Christian is inseparable from Christ. Both in his glory and in his humiliation.
So, I began last week’s sermon with the mansions in Lake Forest and Lincoln Park. I mentioned the Trump Tower. It seems that the word glory is synonymous with the direction "up". I'll never forget my first time walking around in Manhattan. Everything is vertical. Indeed, the taller the skyscraper the more glorious we think it is.
And yet the whole point of Christ coming to this world was not to go up but rather to go down. From heaven to earth. From his throne to the womb of a Jewish virgin. And from that lowly position he went down further still all the way to his death. And if that wasn’t low enough, he died the most shameful of all deaths, death on a cross.
So, this downward trajectory of Jesus which we highlight during Lent seems to be the direct opposite of the trajectory people strive for in this world. Who wants to go down? We all want to go up! Up in pay. Up in status. Up in standard of living. You get the point.
And yet, none of that mattered to Jesus. His greatest desire—indeed his life's mission—was to go down. We say it in the Creed. He was “born of the Virgen Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried”. Well, you can't get any lower than that.
And then the Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 2:5, "Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus…" Do you see why Christianity makes such little sense even to the believer? You will never understand it using the logic of this world. For if we adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus then we also must be willing to go down rather than to go up. What am I talking about? Humility. You cannot get any lower than the word "humble".
This is a word that our world does not understand. No one wants to be humbled. Indeed, to be humbled has a negative connotation. It means that you are brought down out of your ivory tower, that you have been lowered both in your own eyes and the eyes of others. So, how can the Apostle Paul exhort us with the words, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus"? Because of what he goes on to say next.
"…who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross" (vv. 6-8).
That is the attitude the Bible tells us to adopt. That is the attitude that God tells us to adopt. To empty ourselves. To take on the form of a servant. To humble ourselves and become obedient to God even to the point of death. Why?
Because the essence of love is to do something that benefits another. It is to lift the other person up even if that means you yourself will go down. That is true love. And God is love. And so, Jesus emptied himself so that you and I might be filled. That is what I meant last week when I said, Jesus' greatest glory is saving you and me.
You see, in the verses just before our text Paul writes the Philippians, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves" (v. 3). Just ponder that statement for a moment. Do you agree with it? Does it sound right to you? "Consider others as more important than yourselves." Doesn't that statement seem to go against the entire modern self-esteem movement which says you are the most important person in your life? Put yourself first!"
Because that is not what Jesus did. He did not put himself first. He put you first. He put me first. He put his Heavenly Father first. Where did Jesus place himself? Last. That is what humility does. It takes the last spot at the table, the one furthest away from the seat of honor. "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."
Verse 4 of Philippians 2 says, "Everyone should look not to his own interest, but rather to the interests of others." So, how are you living your life? According to the motto: me, myself, and I? Or, according to the Christian manifesto: God, my neighbor, and my enemy?
You say, "It makes no sense!" No, not if being great in this world is the goal. But what if the goal isn't about this world? What if the goal has nothing to do with this world? Then it might begin to make sense. What if the whole point of Christianity is to die to this world so that one can finally live for heaven? And what if the end goal of life on earth is to die so that we can go to heaven? Well, then humbling oneself in the present doesn't sound so crazy, does it? Then Jesus humbling himself to the point of death—even death on a cross—begins to make a bit of sense. If Jesus' greatest glory is saving you and me, then dying for our sins would be his greatest act of love.
Maybe now we can understand why Jesus purposefully chose to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey rather than be escorted in a golden chariot. Maybe now we can understand why the praises of the rich and famous, the powerful and the prestigious meant nothing to him, but the praise of the common people did. Maybe we can understand now why as King he came not to triumph over his subjects but to save his subjects from sin, death, and the devil. He sees the world so differently than you and I see it. It is far better to serve than to be served. It is far more noble to turn the cheek than to strike the cheek. The name Savior is even greater than the name King.
Says the Apostle Paul, "For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that his above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (vv. 9-11).
So, the same people that praised Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, weren't willing to speak up for him and defend him five days later on Good Friday. And the Pharisees who refused to praise him on Palm Sunday and who later who crucified him on Good Friday, they will be forced to bow down to Jesus at the end of all things. Everyone will bow down to him. The only difference is that some will bow down to him as their Savior. Others will bow down to him as their Judge. What about you?
We bow down to him now before it is too late. As Christians, the posture of our body at the communion rail is the posture of our heart before God through all of life. And when we gather for worship we shout, “Hosanna!”, which means, “Save us!”
Save us? You mean we need saving? You mean I need saving? Yes.
That is why Jesus enters into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. He enters not to conquer. He enters to save. He does not enter to exalt himself among the people. He enters to humble himself before the people. To the point of arrest, imprisonment, ridicule, torture, and death. All for you. All so that the Father in heaven might forgive you. So that he might be your Savior.
"For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name" (v. 9). That name is Savior. Your Savior. May we bend our knees this week and bow down before him as we follow him to cross, so that in his death, we may follow him at the resurrection. Amen.