It’s holy week, and I must say that this year’s Lenten season has been a rich one for me. As I’ve wrestled with the question of discipleship, I’ve found myself in and out of a deep meditation on Jesus’ call for me. At times, I’m frustrated – distracted one second, reflecting the next. Sometimes I can be so totally engrossed by Jesus’ lordship over all of life, and then I can be acting as the god of my own life. In hindsight, maybe that’s the most realistic picture of discipleship? In any case, I’ve been anticipating our church’s annual holy week early morning services. This year, the focus is around the Glory of Christ. Today’s particular theme is the Glory of Christ in his humility.
I find that to be the most ironic and surprising of ideas – Christ’s glory as displayed in his humility. No less surprising than the snow that fell last night in this the third week of April! Yet in Philippians 2:5-11, Christ’s humility is on display both as exemplar for our humility and a glory to be praised. The Puritans called the humility of Christ his condescension. I find this to be a very powerful word picture – Jesus is condescending towards me. At first, my heart reacts negatively. After all, condescension is usually a negative thing, isn’t it? Why would condescension be a cause for glory? “Don’t take that condescending tone with me,” or, “I can’t stand to be around him/her because he’s always so condescending.” However, there are occasions where condescending could be positive. Imagine a super famous celebrity or a figure coming to your house, giving you time not because they wanted something from you, but simply because they are interested in you. There’s an act of condescension to give you attention, to experience your life. It gives value to your life and makes that figure glorious, and the greater the distance between you and the figure, the more glorious the condescension. What could be greater than the gap between God and man?
And in this, Jesus doesn’t just come as he is, he takes up human form in all its frailty and weakness, limitations and finitude, and he becomes like us. He had all the glory, but he chose to be counted among criminals. He gave up his rights as God and didn’t use it for his advantage, but made himself nothing. Contrast this to the quarreling saints who were rivaling each other based on empty glory (I love the play on words between Phil 2:3 and 2:7 – don’t [you saints] do anything from empty glory, but have the mindset of the one who emptied his glory).
Paul goes on to describe how he humbled himself, that is, how he condescended. By becoming obedient to the point of death. He died like a common criminal, treated worse than an animal. Took on the limitations of human form. His humiliation came as he was obedient to death. He let them pierce him, mock him, and accuse him. He let them think that they had the last laugh. That’s what I call condescension.
So the question remains, Why does this make him glorious? Because our God doesn’t sit in the heavens
and expect us to come to him once we’ve got our lives together. Our God doesn’t wait at a distance telling us that because we made the mess, we’ve got to get it right. No, our God humbles himself by coming to us, even by becoming one of us. Our God purchased sinners with his blood. Our God let the same sinner he came to save spill it. Our God stooped down low to bring us up. Our God put himself in the place of man on the cross because man tried to put himself in the place of God! Our God is humble, he condescends to meet us, and that’s what make him glorious!!!!
Today, he is present in the details of your life, so don’t despair. When you think that you’re alone, that your burden is yours alone to carry, remember that a glorious God sent his glorious Son in glorious humility to make us sons of glory.