O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
The Lowly Lamb of God
The Lowly Lamb of God
Based on Phil. 2:5-11
Preached on March 22, 2017,
Click on the Play button
to listen to the Sermon.
The text for our sermon this evening is from Philippians chapter 2 verses 5-11.
St. Paul writes, Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the Name that is above every Name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
"Ever Patient and Lowly." That is the way the hymn describes Jesus, and that pretty well sums it up, doesn’t it? The Lowly Lamb of God. Tonight, we find out that His lowliness is more than an example; it is a gift in which we find humility ourselves.
And that's a good thing, because we don't have much humility to spare these days, do we? Humility is in pretty short supply. Several generations have grown up believing that the cardinal sin is not pride, but low self-esteem. We can tolerate all kinds of problems in our kids, but God forbid that they should ever suffer any lack of self-esteem. Our entire educational system is designed – not to increase students’ knowledge – but to increase their confidence.
When you coddle children to the point that they actually come to believe they are the center of the universe, it should come as no surprise that they grow up to be rather self-fixated adults. And that's what's happened: our world is populated by a whole lot of people who pay no attention to the needs of others, much less the will of God. They worship at the shrine of the unholy trinity: Me, Myself, and I.
Now don't be mistaken; this is not just a problem ungodly people have. We can't assume that we've escaped this trap ourselves. Daily you and I are bombarded with a steady stream of messages telling us that we have an inherent right to be in control, that things should be just the way we want them to be, that our opinion is the only one that counts. And Christians don't walk away from such strong and persistent temptation unscathed. Especially when you consider that this sort of message is extremely popular with our old Adam, the sinful flesh within. Our flesh – which is allies with the devil and the fallen world – does not want to hallow God's Name nor let His Kingdom come.
The Bible lists humility, along with kindness and meekness, among the Christian virtues. Yet today in many circles any one of the three would be considered a sign of weakness. Lowliness doesn't go over so well. To get ahead, we're told, you've got to promote yourself - humility is for sissies.
Not so in the Kingdom of God. To put your self ahead of God and other people is not a mark of independence and initiative, but the sure sign of an idolatrous heart. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength — and your neighbor as yourself." That's the sum total of the Law of God. And that Law still holds. St. Paul writes in the verses immediately preceding our text: "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Unfortunately, all too often that's not the way it is among us, is it? When it comes to humility, we're sadly lacking. What's more, instead of counting others more significant than ourselves, it's just the other way around: we consider ourselves most important of all.
This puts our text into an entirely different light. When the apostle writes “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus,” we are immediately struck by two things: first, the sad fact that our natural attitude is not very Christ-like when it comes to humility — far from it. What "should be" is not what actually is. Second, what we do not have in ourselves we are given by faith in Jesus - the humble mind of Jesus is one of the gifts He gives to those who love and trust in Him: When you have Jesus by faith you also have all His gifts. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened," He said, "and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.'
As we watch Jesus throughout this Lenten season suffering the consequences of our sin, we are struck once again by exactly that: His deep and profound humility. Not once did He complain of injustice. Not once did he return violence for violence, not even in his heart. As Isaiah wrote: "Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth." This unbelievable humility is not His weakness – it is His strength. "No man takes my life from Me," Jesus said, “I lay it down of my own accord."
Jesus is not a helpless victim in His suffering and death, He remained perfectly in charge throughout the whole ordeal. Yes, it certainly looked for all the world as though He was defeated that day they flogged Him nearly senseless and then nailed Him up to die, a beaten and bloody pulp of a man. Yet He was and remained God throughout His torment; for the only way captive humanity could be rescued and released would be if God became the ransom price Himself.
And that of course is exactly what happened. St. Paul paints the scene in vivid detail in our text. Being in very nature God, (He) did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing. Jesus was indeed equal with God, being the eternal Son of the Father, with whom He had existed from all eternity as one with the Father and the Spirit, three individual Persons, yet eternally one undivided God. He was always in the form of God, yet when the time came for Him to ransom mankind, He surrendered His equality with the Father, and emptied Himself of His divine glory, exchanging the form of God for the form of a servant, being born in human likeness.
With three hammer blows the apostle drives home the deep mystery of the Incarnation and the profound wonder of our redemption: Taking the form of a slave / being born human likeness / being found in human appearance. God from God and Light from Light, True God from all eternity, Jesus Christ is also true man, freely sacrificing His divine majesty to come down here among us to be suckled and diapered like any other infant, so that He could rescue and save the whole rebellious world. Now, that's humility for you - but that's not the sum total of Christ's humility; there's more.
The apostle continues: "And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Now I dare say we have heard so much about the cross in this church that we've almost become numb to it. Yet there is a shocking frankness about these words that likely doesn't come across in plain English. You see, every faithful Jew who knew His Bible knew that there was a unique horror to the cross – and it wasn't what you think.
Our thoughts likely turn to the macabre – the gruesome horror and physical agony of nails being driven through human flesh. Well, that was bad enough, of course. Crucifixion struck terror in the hearts of the bravest of men even in the morbid world of the first century. But there was a special horror to death by crucifixion among the people of God. There was a spiritual reality to it. All victims of the cross were automatically under the wrath of God. In the book of Deuteronomy the LORD had explicitly warned Israel: "...anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse." Cursed. By God.
You see, then - the lowest point in the humiliation of Jesus was exactly this: that He willingly placed Himself before God’s anger in His death. He wasn’t forced. It wasn’t someone else’s decision. It was His. "He humbled Himself." The Son of God deliberately and freely chose to relinquish His divine glory, to empty Himself and come among us as a man, then to lower Himself still further all the way to death in obedience to the Father's will, and that not just any ordinary death, but the sub ordinary death of the cross, there to be cursed for us in His death, thus bursting the bonds of the curse that held all mankind captive.
Talk about lowly - I dare say not one of us has ever run into such humility as we see in the Lord Jesus, who came down so very low from His exalted glory up in heaven in order to rescue fallen humanity.
Is there anyone here who would go to such great lengths for the benefit of someone else? If you know your own heart, you know the answer is no. Humility may be fine for other people, lowliness may be good and well, but the sinful heart just doesn't want to go there. Who would ever want to take a back seat to somebody else, we figure. And so everybody around us pays the price.
When our stubborn pride gets in the way, it causes more than enough hurt to go around. No wonder, then, that a lot of those nearest and dearest to us get injured in the process. No wonder that many of our friends and family go begging for sympathy and love, all because our great big self-inflated ego doesn't leave them room to breathe.
It's not a pretty picture. But that's what happens when selfish pride takes over. Lowliness goes out the door, and humility doesn't even show up on our radar screen. That's when people get hurt. And — make no mistake about it - in the process we injure ourselves as well. When pride runs amuck, it not only affects other people, it cuts us off from God.
To the walking wounded, then, the message of the Lowly Lamb of God this night comes as healing medicine for the soul. For our Lord Jesus walked the lowly, lonely road that led to the cross precisely to remove the injury and hurt that you and I have done in our sinful pride. The death He died on His cross in abject lowliness and humility, was our death. The curse He bore in that shameful death was our curse. Now the power of that curse is broken. The warfare between God and mankind is over and done. The miserable record of our sin, all the hurt and shame of it, is blotted out in Jesus' blood.
In exchange for the misery of our sin we receive the very life of Christ, the Lowly Lamb of God. Baptized into Him, we receive His lowliness and humility as a gift, to live by faith no longer in ourselves, but in Him. We have this mind which was first in Christ when He left His Father's throne, emptying Himself to become a slave that we might be made sons of God to reign with Him in glory.
For what you see now is only partial. The life of humility and lowly service we now live is only part of the picture. Now we see through a glass dimly. But one day we will see face to face. First the cross, and then the crown. All gift. Because our Lord Jesus, the lowly Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, humbled Himself and obeyed His Father's will all the way to the death of the cross, Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
And now unto Him be the glory, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one eternal God, now and forever. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr