Passion-Palm Sunday (A) March 16, 2008
Live in Service (Philippians 2:5-11)
The church I serve is a block from the courthouse square. Not long after moving to town, to get acquainted with some of our neighbors, I walked downtown and visited a couple of stores. At the pawn shop I met J.B. We talked about the difference between running a pawn shop and his years in banking. I asked about his relationship to Christ and he gladly responded, “My life became different through the influence of one man.” J.B. shared the example, commitment and sacrificial service of a former pastor. The man had moved away years ago, but the influence remained strong in J.B.’s life. Who is a mentor, model, and influence in your life? Is there someone who impacted your life in earlier years that remains an influence today on your life and actions? The best model is described in Phil. 2:5-11. Paul pointed the Philippians to Christ with the call that “your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ” (v. 5).
Today is Palm Sunday, remembering Christ’s victorious entry into Jerusalem. The adulation of the crowd soon changed to opposition. Christ walked beyond the palm leaves to the cross. He placed Himself in the position of a servant in order to accomplish God’s will. That calling also comes to every Christian. Paul reminded the Philippians of Christ’s example to motivate unity in the church and sacrificial service for others in need. It is not enough for us to live in the Light and to live by the Spirit. We must also live in service and follow Christ’s model of humility, obedience, and self-sacrifice.
Claim Christ as your model for humility (vv. 6-8).
Here is the highest theology declared for the most practical emphasis – how we live our life and how we relate to others. Christ was God but did not “consider equality with God something to be grasped.” He let go of the glory of eternity and took “the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (v. 7). Christ “emptied himself” of eternal glory and was clothed with humanity. The Incarnation is the greatest act of humility.
The model of humility remains radical in today’s culture. Charles R. Swindoll (Laugh Again, p. 79) worded the contrast:
“Be wise, know yourself.”
“Be strong, discipline yourself.”
“Be good, conform yourself.”
“Be sensuous, satisfy yourself.”
“Be resourceful, expand yourself.”
“Be confident, assert yourself.”
“Be possessive, please yourself.”
“Be lowly, suppress yourself.”
“Be capable, believe in yourself.”
“Be superior, promote yourself.”
“Be unselfish, humble yourself.”
The word “humility” was used to describe the Nile River at its lowest point. Jesus illustrated humility when he girded himself with the servant’s towel and washed the disciples’ feet (John 13). Is our lifestyle characterized by Christian humility?
Claim Christ as your model for obedience (v. 8).
He “became obedient to death…” Our tendency is to obey as long as it doesn’t cause us any inconvenience. Certainly, we shouldn’t have to experience any pain. Christ is the model for obedience.
Peter indicated obedience is a trait of the Father’s children. “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance” (1 Pet. 1:14). Be warned, the route of obedience may bring suffering and rejection. “But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Pet. 2:20-21). Millions have read Charles Shelton’s classic, In His Steps, but find it difficult to follow Christ’s example of obedience.
Claim Christ as your model for sacrifice (v.8-11).
He “became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” The sacrifice of Christ remains “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Cor.1:23). Through the power of the cross lost humanity experiences the forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God. “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Beyond dying to self in conversion, Christ calls each of his disciples to “take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
Donnie lived in a small white frame house with one phone. He drove a beat-up old car and didn’t wear high fashion clothes. At a youth crusade he heard the Gospel, developed friendships in the youth group and after a few months gave his life to Christ. He signed on and prepared for a mission team to the Northern Cheyenne Indians in Montana. On the last day of the reservation Bible school, Donnie drowned during a recreational swim with the Indian youth. When another team returned to the reservation the following year, many of the Cheyenne asked “Why would you come back, after losing a son?” The sacrifice of one young man opened a door for witness and the reservation church experienced unprecedented growth.
After Christ’s sacrifice on the cross “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name…” (v. 9). He remains our model for service. Life in the Light and in the Spirit is a life of service.