160320 Philippians 2:5-11

Last Updated on Sunday, 20 March 2016 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Philippians 2:5-11
Theme: No Ordinary King

The time: spring in about the year 30 A.D. The place: somewhere on the short stretch of road between Bethany and Jerusalem. Thousands of faithful Jews had made the pilgrimage to celebrate the Passover, now only a few days away. As Jesus made his way down from the Mount of Olives into the Kidron Valley, the buzz began to grow.

"Is it really him? Is this Jesus of Nazareth, the one everyone has been talking about? Did you hear about his friend Lazarus? He had been dead for four days, and Jesus came to the tomb and called out to him, 'Lazarus, come out,' and he did. What kind of man is this? What kind of powers does he possess? Could this be the Messiah, the Promised One, the Redeemer of Israel?"

As Jesus entered the city, the noises grew louder and the crowds grew larger. Some threw their coats down in front of him. Others took palm branches and waved them in the air. The adoring crowds bowed down and exclaimed: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord (Luke 19:38)!

The combined gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John give us a vivid picture of what we now call Palm Sunday. The triumphant scene had all the makings of a grand procession, a homecoming parade for a victorious king. But a closer look reveals that Jesus did not exactly receive a royal welcome.

There were no armies marching ahead of him, no trumpet blasts, no flags snapping in the breeze. Jesus didn't sit atop a majestic steed covered in gold. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, a colt, a beast of burden. Instead of giving a stirring speech before huge crowds, Jesus wept alone. He wept for Jerusalem because he knew that the city would be destroyed in the not-so-distant future. Even the people who lined the streets and hailed Jesus as the son of David were not the most faithful of followers. Where would they be a few days later, when the crowds were shouting: "Crucify him, crucify him?"

Those people probably didn't realize it, but they were not far from the truth. Jesus was the son of David. And yes, Jesus was a king. But he was different. He didn't come to establish an earthly kingdom in Israel. He came to establish an eternal rule in heaven. The words of Paul recorded in Philippians 2 remind us of that. They give us the assurance that Jesus was and is...


Let me begin by stating the obvious, or by restating what Paul believed to be obvious. Jesus is not just a king. Jesus is God. He is by very nature God. In the opening words of his gospel John declared: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning" (1:1,2). Jesus is the Word John was talking about. Before he took on human flesh, even before the creation of the world, Jesus was with God the Father from eternity.

Many people are willing to call Jesus a good man or a great teacher, but Jesus is so much more than that. He is equal to the Father and the Spirit in power and majesty. And because Jesus is true God, he did not "consider equality with God something to be grasped" (6). He didn't need to prove himself. He didn't have to present his credentials. He doesn't have to hold on tightly to his divinity as if it could slip away. Simply put, Jesus always was and always will be God.

But Jesus is also true man. He "made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness" (7). Literally, he "emptied himself." When Jesus was born he didn't stop being God, but he did give up the full use of his divine powers for a time. He remained our king, but he traded in the royal robes of divine glory for the sackcloth of human flesh.

As a human being Jesus faced the same challenges and temptations that you and I face. He was hungry and thirsty. He felt sorrow and pain. He cried when his friend Lazarus died. Jesus was every bit as human as we are, but what Jesus did is not as amazing as why he did it. Jesus humbled himself...for us. "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).

Jesus didn't just serve. He served with perfect obedience. Jesus didn't just live on this earth. He died a shameful and painful death. Death was an unthinkable sentence for the sinless Son of God, but the kind of death he endured stripped him of all human dignity. He didn't go down in a blaze of glory. He didn't die peacefully in his sleep. Jesus was crucified like a criminal. He was nailed to a tree. His enemies mocked him mercilessly, and his friends (at least most of them) left him to die alone. Even though he had the power to intervene, even though he could have stopped his execution at any moment, Jesus willingly gave up everything, including his own life, to spare us from death.

It is a relatively recent development that the name, "Trump," has become synonymous with controversy. There was a time when most Americans associated the "Trump" brand with wealth and luxury. That was my personal experience a few years ago when I visited Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. I think it was when I saw the indoor waterfalls in the lobby that I realized the place was a little bit out of my price range.

So how likely do you think it would be for Donald Trump to turn over the keys to his penthouse suite and open doors and carry luggage at the entrance of the building that bears his name? You would probably call him crazy for giving everything away. You might call my story crazy because you and I both know that it will never happen.

As unbelievable as that may sound, that's what Jesus did, except on a much grander scale. Jesus isn't just rich or wealthy or powerful. He is God. Jesus was seated at the right hand of God the Father from eternity. And he set his glory aside. He humbled himself. He took on the form of a servant. He even carried his own cross to his death. And everything Jesus did, everything he endured, every sacrifice he made, he did it all...for you.

By all outward appearances Jesus looked defeated on Good Friday, but his death has given us the final victory. On a hill that resembled a human skull, our Savior defeated sin and Satan because he is no ordinary king. And the king who humbled himself for us is now exalted forever.

God the Father exalted his Son to the highest place. His glory and radiance now shine as brightly as ever. As our exalted king, God has given Jesus the name that is above every name. That name is not a royal title Jesus earned by completing his work faithfully. God didn't give Jesus a promotion for accomplishing our salvation. Jesus was and always will be God. And when he reassumed the full use of his divine power and glory, it was nothing new to him. He was only returning to the place he had been before.

Peter understood the power behind that name when he declared: "There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Jesus is the only name that gives us hope. Jesus is the only name that gives people peace. Only Jesus can breathe life into a world that is dead in sin.

And on the Last Day every knee will bow to him. Everyone will acknowledge Jesus as the supreme ruler of the universe, the saints who have gone before us and have found eternal rest, the angels who announced his birth on earth and now sing his praises in heaven. Even the devil and his demons will be forced to admit their defeat and accept his authority.

And as long as we are here, while we eagerly wait for that glorious day to come, the church on earth will continue to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Our praises are far from perfect down here, but we will worship our King in perfect harmony and unity in heaven.

Philippians 2:5-11 offers us perhaps the Bible's most complete treatment of Jesus' humiliation and exaltation, and connected with that the teaching that Jesus is both true God and true man in one person. What makes this theologically rich passage even more interesting is its context. Before Paul explains what makes Jesus the perfect example of selfless, self-sacrificing love, he challenges his readers: "You should be like him. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus" (5). And

So how do you measure up? How does your attitude compare to that of Christ Jesus? Are you always looking for opportunities to show love to your spouse, to help your kids, to thank your parents, to do what needs to get done even if it isn't your job, to spread the good news, to pray for your enemies, to praise your Lord? Or are you like me and have trouble thinking about anyone but yourself?

Christ is the perfect role model for Christians, but that does not make Christians perfect role models for others. We don't always think of others. We avoid situations when we have to humble ourselves. And if Jesus would have had that kind of attitude, we shudder to think where that would leave us. Helpless. Hopeless. Headed for hell.

Paul didn't challenge the Philippians to beat them up or beat them down, to shine a spotlight on their shortcomings and suck all the joy out of their lives. And he doesn't want to do that to us either. Paul's words are words of encouragement. Jesus is our perfect example today because two thousand years ago he was our perfect substitute. He lived a perfect life for us. He sacrificed his life for us. And his sacrificial love moves us and inspires us to confess him, to follow him, to think more like him and act more like him, to thank and praise and serve and obey him.

When Jesus was crucified, Pontius Pilate had a notice fastened to his cross that read: "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews" (John 19:19). Some of the Jewish leaders protested: "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews" (John 19:21). Jesus' enemies were at least partially correct. Jesus was not their king, at least not the kind of king they were looking for. He led no army. He had no political agenda. Jesus didn't fit their mold of a messiah, so they killed him.

At the same time, Pilate's notice was accurate. Jesus was a king, but he is no ordinary king. He did not come to conquer. He came to serve. Jesus humbled himself for us, and now he is exalted forever. And so along with the Palm Sunday worshipers who lined the streets of Jerusalem , we pay homage to Jesus, our Redeemer, our Savior, our King: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest" (Luke 19:38)! Amen.

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