The Lowly Lamb of God

Midweek 4 Sermon

 

(Philippians 2:5–11)

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, 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.

“Lamb of God, Pure and Holy” is the way the hymn describes Jesus. And that about sums things up. “Ever patient and lowly” Last week we considered Jesus, the patient Lamb of God, the suffering Lamb. And we discovered that Jesus covers our sufferings with His sufferings. Tonight we focus on Jesus, the lowly Lamb of God. And once again, we find out that His lowliness is more than an example; it is a gift in which we find our humility.

Years ago, I heard a man, a devout Christian brag about how humble he was, and how others would do well to become more like him. You might even say this man was downright proud of his humility.

In reality we don’t have much humility to spare. Humility is in pretty short supply. Several generations have grown up believing that the cardinal sin is not pride, but low self-esteem. We can tolerate all kinds of problems in our kids, but God forbid that they should ever suffer any lack of self-esteem.

When you make children think they are the center of the universe, it should be no surprise that they grow up to be self-absorbed adults. And that’s pretty much what’s happened: our world is populated by many people who pay no attention to the needs of others, much less to the will of God. They worship at the shrine of the unholy trinity: Me, Myself, and I.

Please don’t be mistaken—this isn’t just a problem ungodly people have. We can’t assume that we’ve escaped from this trap. Daily we are bombarded with a steady stream of messages that tell us we have an inherent right to be in control, that things should be just the way we want them to be. After all our opinion is the only one that really counts. And Christians don’t walk away from such strong and unrelenting temptation unscathed, especially when you consider that this message is extremely popular with our old Adam, our sinful flesh within. The devil, the fallen world and our sinful flesh doesn’t want to hallow God’s name nor let His kingdom come.

The Bible lists humility, along with kindness and meekness, as the Christian virtues (Colossians 3:12). Yet in many circles today any one of the three would be considered a sign of weakness. Lowliness doesn’t go over so well. We are told that to get ahead, we have to promote ourselves—humility is for sissies. Might makes right!

Not so in the kingdom of God. To put yourself ahead of God and other people is not a mark of independence and initiative; instead, it is the sure sign of an idolatrous heart. Christ tells us:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your might and also Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30–31). That’s the sum total of the Law of God. And that Law still holds. St. Paul writes in the verses immediately preceding our text: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 ESV). Unfortunately, too often it’s not that way it is among us. When it comes to humility, we are sadly lacking. Instead of counting others more significant than ourselves, it is just the other way around: we consider ourselves most important of all.

This puts our text in an entirely different light. When the apostle writes, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5), we are struck immediately by two things:

1.                            Firstly, the sad fact is that our attitude is not very Christ-like when it comes to humility.

2.                            Secondly, what we don’t have in ourselves we are given by faith in Jesus.

The humble attitude of Jesus is one of the gifts He gives to those who love and trust in Him. When you have faith by Jesus, you also have all His gifts. “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened,” He said, “and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:28–29a).

As we watch Jesus throughout this Lenten season suffering from the consequences of our sin, we are struck again and again by His deep and profound humility. He never once complained of injustice or returned violence for violence. As Isaiah wrote: “Like a lamb led to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). So clear and evident the humility of Jesus was not weakness, but strength. Jesus says: “No man takes My life from Me, I lay it down of My own accord” (John 10:18).

Jesus is not a helpless victim in His suffering and death. He remained perfectly in charge throughout the whole ordeal. To the world it looked as though He was defeated, that He had been flogged nearly senseless and that He was nailed to the cross to die, a beaten and bloody pulp of a man. Yet Jesus remained God throughout His torment; for the only way enslaved humanity could be rescued and released would be if God Himself became the ransom price.

Of course that’s exactly what happened. St. Paul paints the scene in vivid detail in our text: “being in very nature God, He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing” (Philippians 2:6). Jesus was indeed equal with God, being the eternal Son of the Father, with whom He had existed from all eternity as one with the Father and the Spirit, three individual persons yet eternally one undivided God. Jesus was always in the form of God, yet when the time came for Him to ransom mankind; He surrendered His equality with the Father and emptied Himself of His divine glory, exchanging the form of God for the form of a servant, being born in human likeness.

With three hammer blows the apostle drives home the deep mystery of the incarnation and the profound wonder of our redemption: taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness, being found in human appearance. God of God and Light of Light, very God from all eternity, Jesus Christ is also true man, freely sacrificing His divine majesty to come down here among us. Only in this way could He rescue and save a rebellious world. That’s humility—but that’s not the totality of Christ’s humility.

The apostle continues: “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8). We’ve heard so much about the cross in this church that we have almost become numb to it. Yet there’s a shocking frankness about these words that likely doesn’t come across in plain English. Every faithful Jew who knew his Bible knew that there was a unique horror to the cross—and it wasn’t what you think. Our thoughts likely turn to the macabre—the gruesome horror and physical agony of nails being driven through human flesh. Although that was bad enough—and struck terror in the hearts of the bravest of men, even in the morbid world of the first century—there was a special horror to death by crucifixion among the people of God. All victims of the cross were automatically under the wrath of God. In the Book of Deuteronomy, the Lord had explicitly warned Israel: “Anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse” (Deuteronomy 21:23).

Thus the greatest point in the humiliation of Jesus was exactly this: that He willingly placed Himself under the judgment of God in His death. Yet again note how Jesus was in complete control even in this degradation: “He humbled Himself,” (Philippians 2:8). The Son of God deliberately and freely chose to relinquish His divine glory, to empty Himself and come among us as a man, then to lower Himself still further all the way to death in obedience to the Father’s will. And He suffered no ordinary death, but the superordinary death of the cross, there to be cursed for us in His death, thus bursting the bonds of the curse that held all of mankind captive.

Talk about lowly. None of us has ever seen such humility as we see in the Lord Jesus. He lowered Himself from His exalted glory in heaven to rescue a fallen humanity that didn’t think it needed rescuing.  Is there anyone here who would go to such great lengths for the benefit of someone else?  Would had any of us done that? No!

We are quite the opposite. Our stubborn pride causes more than enough hurt to go around. No wonder, then, that a lot of those nearest and dearest to us are injured in the process. No wonder that many of our friends and family go begging for sympathy and love because our self-inflated ego doesn’t leave them room to breathe. EGO what an incredible word, Edging God Out and other too!

It’s not a pretty picture. But that is what happens when selfish pride takes over. Lowliness goes out the door, and humility doesn’t even show up on our radar screen. That is when people get hurt. And make no mistake about it, we injure ourselves as well. When pride runs amok, it not only affects other people, it also cuts us off from God.

To the walking wounded, then, the message of the lowly Lamb of God this night comes as healing medicine for the soul. For our Lord Jesus walked the lowly, lonely road that led to the cross precisely to remove the injury and hurt that you and I have done in our sinful pride. The death He died on His cross in abject lowliness and humility was our death. The curse He bore in that shameful death was our curse. Now the power of that curse is broken. The warfare between God and mankind is over and done. We have received from the Lord’s own hand double for our sin. The miserable record of our sin, all the hurt and shame of it, is blotted out in Jesus’ blood.

In exchange for the misery of our sin, we receive the very life of Christ, the lowly Lamb of God. Baptized into Him, we receive His lowliness and humility as a gift, to live by faith no longer in ourselves but in Him who died for us in wretched lowliness and was raised in joyful glory. We have this attitude that was first in Christ when He left His Father’s throne, emptying Himself to become a slave that we might be made sons of God to reign with Him in glory.

Now unto Him be all glory, honor and dominion now and forevermore. In Jesus Name, Amen!