“Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity…” (Philippians 2:7)
Paul is describing the incarnation of Jesus. Incarnation literally means “en-fleshment.” John says “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14)
C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite thinkers, describes the incarnation as “the great miracle”—even more mind-boggling than the resurrection—because of the fact that Jesus left his heavenly glory to serve humanity.
Lewis illustrates it this way: “… one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into cold and black water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay, then up again, back to color and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover.” (C.S. Lewis, Miracles)
The passage, Philippians 2:5-11, is the description of how Jesus took that dive. He plunged into the mud … a humble manger, suffocated on a cross, and walked out of a closed tomb holding redeemed humanity and nature proudly in his hand. He made the dive for you and me!
Most NT scholars will tell you that by the way this passage is written it was probably a hymn sung by the early church (wouldn’t you love to know the tune?) Paul includes it in an ethical section where he is encouraging Christians to humble themselves and serve one another … Jesus serving as the supreme example of self-sacrifice, self-denial, self-giving, and boundless love.
But when we’re pondering Jesus’ humility, we need to see the motivation behind it: loving kindness. “But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy—through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:4–5)
You can see that dive in this poem … Jesus begins in heaven and descends lower and lower … he reaches the lowest point at “death on a cross” … and resurfaces again with every knee bowing and tongue confessing!
Jesus humbled himself … he took the dive because of his love for you in order to rescue you from the mud. Join us at church and we’ll worship him together.
Jim Mann, Ph.D. pastors New Life Church at Robson Ranch. This interdenominational church meets at the Robson Clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. and online. Visit www.newlifedenton.org for more information or www.drjimmann.com.