April 1, 2012
Palm Sunday (B)
I grew up as a life-long fan of the Washington Redskins. One player from the Redskins’ glory years who I hold in awe is Darrell Green. For many years, he was the NFL’s fastest man. He had incredible exploits on the field, but he coupled those with the humility that comes from being a genuine Christ-follower. There are others who are worthy of our respect and admiration.
Ask anyone, “Which Christian figure do you most admire?” and there are two names certain to be on the list: Mother Teresa and Billy Graham, Mother Teresa for her lifetime of selfless dedication and service to the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India; Billy Graham for the humility and integrity he has demonstrated through the years, though he has preached to and befriended kings, queens and presidents.
You could look at the life of any of these three people and say they are great. Jesus never condemned the desire for greatness. Instead, He redefined for us what greatness really is. When His disciples were engaged in a fit of male bravado arguing about who was the greatest, Jesus took a child, sat him in their midst and said, “If you want to be great, you must be a servant.” It’s as if He was saying, “In My kingdom, the one who is the greatest is the one who is the greatest servant.” Jesus’ life and legacy provide the greatest picture of servanthood this world will ever see.
Paul was writing to his precious friends in Philippi. He took great delight in them, but was burdened that their unity was slipping away. Some key members were not getting along. He urged them to put the interests of each other ahead of their own. Then he gave one of the most stirring passages of Scripture as a means of making his point.
I. The Humility of Christ.
A preacher was teaching a group of boys this passage once and asked, “What kind of attitude did Jesus have?” One of the boys answered, “Jesus didn’t have no attitude!” Everyone has an attitude of one kind or another. Jesus’ attitude was of selfless service.
I’ve noticed sometimes the athletes who are the most full of bluster and trash talk are those who are only of average talent. The ones who know they are really good generally let their play do their talking for them. Jesus knew who He was. He was completely free to be a servant. Neither His ego nor His position was threatened by His taking a servant role upon Himself.
Paul could write, “Even though He was in the form of God, He did not consider equality with God something to cling to.” He took upon Himself the form of a servant. It is seen powerfully in His act of washing His disciples’ feet, but most fully in the crucifixion which would come just hours later. Verse 8 tells us, “being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” There was no more shameful, humiliating death than that.
II. The Exaltation of Jesus.
Jesus could entrust Himself to His Father, knowing God would raise up the humble and deal with the proud. It is because of the perfect act of humility that God raised up Jesus. One day at His name, every knee will bow before Him. One day at His name every tongue will confess Jesus Christ is Lord.
Do you want to be great? Allow this crucified, exalted one to live His life through you.