HOLY WEEK Bible Study
Jesus Christ- the Supreme Example of humility and self-denial
|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.
This passage reflects Paul's attempt to come to terms with the
tremendous work of redemption was accomplished through Jesus Christ.
It is an eloquent tribute to the humility and obedience of the Son
of God in bringing to conclusion a ministry that began in Galilee
over a three year period and ended in Jerusalem on a cruel, rugged
cross. Jerusalem was a place where Jesus had his final rendezvous
with destiny. Paul showed that he fully understood what this meant
for the person who sets out to follow the great example of his Lord.
In verses 1-4 it is clear that the apostle was concerned about certain
attitudes that had emerged in the Philippian Church. It was a church
that he loved and with which he had a special relationship. But
he felt the need to speak honestly to them about what he had noticed
or what might have been brought to his attention.
If they were to make complete his high regard for them then they
needed to ensure that they work in one accord in accomplishing the
tasks assigned to them; they should set aside selfish ambitions
and any desire for vainglory. Furthermore, they should demonstrate
humility in considering others better than themselves. They should
not be preoccupied with their own interests but should have regard
for the interests of others.
If there were any doubts about what any of this meant they only
had to look to the supreme example in whom the virtues of humility,
obedience and self-renunciation or self-denial came together, the
Lord Jesus Christ. These were the hallmarks of his life and ministry
and they should also become the hallmarks of the life of the disciple
Humility. Throughout his ministry people had seen the power
of Jesus in the miracles that he performed especially in the healing
of many from various diseases. Yet it could never be said that he
used his powers to advance a personal ambition or to exalt himself
above others. In fact, as Mark is careful to point out (in what
may be understood as the Messianic secret) Jesus sought to avoid
any attempt by the crowds to exalt him or to make him a king. To
use a hackneyed expression, he was comfortable in his own skin.
His humility was born out of his self-understanding that he was
a servant; he came to serve and not to be served (Matthew 20:28).
Obedience. Obedience is a necessary and important aspect
of humility. Paul says that he became obedient unto death, even
death upon the cross. From he began his ministry in Galilee, the
cross beckoned. As he rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday it was
clear that Jerusalem meant pain, suffering and eventually death.
Jesus tried to explain this to his disciples but they failed to
understand what he meant by this, or if they did, they failed to
grasp the significance of this event. It was only after they had
seen the resurrected Lord that their eyes were truly open to the
implications of his suffering and death, that, indeed, no greater
love can be shown than that in which a person lays down his life
for his friends (John 15: 13).
He would not allow himself to be distracted or dissuaded from the
path that led to the cross. This obedience to his mission brought
him in conflict with the religious and political authorities who
in their ignorance crucified him. But this was the path that he
had to tread; Gethsemane was the culminating point at which it became
abundantly clear that the will of his heavenly father had to be
Self-renunciation or Self-denial. Humility and obedience
can hardly be sustained without a desire for self-denial. On his
way to the cross, Jesus had taught that the person who loves his
life will lose it and the one who would give his life for his sake
and the gospel's would save it ( Matthew 16:25). He also taught:
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take
up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
one of the modern martyrs of the church, once said that when God
calls a man he bids him come and die. The call may not occasion
physical death, but "death" to a number of things that
one considers to be valuable but which may prevent the person from
realizing his or her true purpose in life.