Humbled Yet Glorious
by Bob Burridge ©2019
It’s amazing that the Second Person of the eternal Trinity humbled himself to take on a human form and was born as a baby. He did this knowing he would suffer on a cross to redeem undeserving people to make them his children forever.
The Apostle Paul explained this humiliation of our Savior in Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV),
5. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
6. who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7. but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
8. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
When Jesus took on a human nature to live here on earth, he also continued to be God. He never laid aside his deity. He didn’t combine his deity with his humanity, or mix them together. While he was here on earth, he was at the same time both God and man.
An more literal way to translate verse 6 would be, “… who exists in the form of God, did not consider clinging to being equal to God”. (ὃς ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα Θεῷ,)
Verse 7 begins, “but made himself nothing” — more literally, “but himself he emptied” (ἀλλὰ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν). While he eternally continued being God, he didn’t cling to exercising the privileges of his divine nature. He voluntarily laid aside the display of his godly glory while in his human form.
Jesus did this to redeem us while we were still unworthy! He came to take up guilt that wasn’t his own, and to suffer the ultimate humiliation of execution. He was killed brutally and unjustly in a way reserved for the worst criminals. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 Paul wrote, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
The Sovereign Creator and Preserver of all things humbly borrowed from the humans he created:
– He was laid in a borrowed manger.
– He use a borrowed boat, and rode a borrowed donkey when he later rode into Jerusalem.
– He celebrated Passover with his disciples in a borrowed room.
– In his death he was laid in a tomb that had belonged to someone else.
Isaiah 53:3 describes the Messiah’s earthly life, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; …”. In 53:6 Isaiah wrote, “… the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
What amazing love! The 2nd Person of the Trinity gave up his heavenly comforts and glory to rescue those guilty of crimes against Him! He took on the “form of a servant”. He didn’t just call himself a servant. He actually served. He even knelt down and washed the feet of his disciples.
It says he came in the “likeness of men”, and was “found in human form.” He wasn’t just “appearing as if he was human” – he really was human and took on our nature, but with one difference: he was “… yet without sin.” as it says in Hebrews 4:15.
In that humbled estate, Jesus accomplished our salvation.
8. … he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
The display of his full glory as God, and the purity of his heavenly environment were set aside! He took the place of convicted, depraved moral criminals! The death he endured for us wasn’t an ordinary death. It was the disgraceful death of the cross, a disgraceful public humiliation reserved for convicted criminals. This is what he went through for us because of his amazing love for the unworthy.
In his humiliation, he never ceased to be the eternal and glorious God. Even when he was an unborn baby only a few weeks old growing in his mother’s womb, his true glory as God was perceived by the yet unborn child John.
John was conceived just 6 months before Mary visited his mother Elizabeth in Luke 1:39ff. John wouldn’t be born for 3 months yet. Jesus was newly conceived, still in the first trimester of his pre-birth life. His office as Messiah was fully acknowledged by John and the Holy Spirit in him. This yet unborn baby John was filled with the Holy Spirit and his mother felt him move with a response of joy. If nothing more argues that unborn children are fully human, here’s sufficient evidence. Arguments for abortion need to deny these important biblical facts. To take the life of the unborn is to openly reject this whole biblical account.
In that humble body of Jesus, still in the womb, he was still the glorious God, as well as the human Messiah. He was humbled — yet glorious!
Paul says in Philippians 2:5 “have this mind among yourselves.” The grammar used in this verse means this: “bring your mind into agreement with the mind of Jesus in this matter of humility.” Dr. Wuest said, “The only person in the world who had the right to assert his rights — waived them.”
So many times, the fallen human nature clings to and demands all sorts of personal rights. It makes us whine and cry when we feel our rights are in any way imposed upon. When we crave self-glory and indulge our own pleasures and comforts, we don’t earn glory — we earn shame.
God’s glory and the interests of his Kingdom and people need to come first in our lives. To put our own schedules and benefits first is disobedience to his moral law. We might gain little momentary victories: popularity, money, luxury or entertainment — but at what cost? By abandoning our primary purpose in life, we lose the war.
Jesus Christ is our best and only perfect example of humbly putting eternal priorities first. But Jesus is far more than just our example! He’s also the one who restores us to this important priority.
Now our Savior’s restored to full glory. Philippians 2 continues in verses 9-11,
9. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
10. so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11. and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
He lives as our Savior and Redeemer to make us able to Glorify God and Enjoy him forever. His word tells us how to live for his glory, and promises our enjoyment of his blessings.
– It’s far more than just self-sacrifice in the little things that only matter in this life.
– It’s far more than community service or campaigning for the best leaders.
– It’s far more than getting things and having luxuries, gadgets, nice clothes, and fancy homes.
Living for God means promoting who he really is. It’s living thankfully by the moral principles that please him. It’s telling others about the gospel that enables them to be reconciled with God too, and explaining who God is and about the wonders that are his as our Creator and Redeemer. The coming of Jesus in Bethlehem enables us to live for him today.
We’re tempted to put our own ways before obeying God. We put our own comfort, goals, and schedules above humbly serving God and the needs of others. When these temptations come, remember the humble coming of the second person of the Trinity. How he took on the humble form of a human, suffered ridicule, torture, and finally death. As we grow to be more Christ-like, we show the results of what he came to do to change lives.
It might mean changing our financial plans, our schedules, and our priorities. But the result will confirm his promise that obedience to God is always good. It brings an enjoyment that fallen hearts can’t understand.
Christmas isn’t just a comforting story about a baby born 2000 years ago. It’s about the work that person came to do, and the accomplishment of it. It’s about putting God’s promises and ways first, above our own ways and goals.
We need to treasure the gift he’s given us, and be his instruments in passing it on to others.
(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)