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TMAI Pastor-Trainer Note – Christmas 2013

Pastor-Trainer Notes iconThe Example of Christ’s Humility

by Frank Pass

As we move into the Christmas season, we reflect more deeply on the events surrounding the first advent of Christ as recorded for us in the gospels: the angelic appearances to Zacharias and Mary announcing the birth of John the Baptist and the birth of Christ Himself; the supernatural births of John (to parents past the age of childbearing) and Jesus (to a virgin); the deliverance of Baby Jesus from Herod’s slaughter of the infants in Bethlehem; and, after 400 years of silence, the continuation of God’s plan from His older testament through the announcement from both of these men: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2; 4:17).

But there is a story behind these stories that is also very appropriate for us to reflect upon at Christmas. This one is recorded for us in Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:5-8).

Note the three “descending steps” of humility by Christ in this passage:

  1. From God to man. Before His incarnation, Christ shared perfect unity, fellowship, and glory with the Father from eternity past. He gave all of that up to take on human flesh and enter into a world under the curse of sin…a world which He Himself had created. Without surrendering His deity, He experienced all the limitations of being human. He had to grow in wisdom and stature as a child. He experienced weariness and hunger. He was tempted in every way that we are, yet without sin. He even learned obedience through the things He suffered.

  2. From human life to death. Jesus not only lived life as a man, He also died a real death. But it was not just physical death that He experienced. Though He had lived a life of perfect obedience to God, He voluntarily endured spiritual death. He was separated from His Father and endured His wrath when He made atonement for our sins through His death.
  3. From death to death on a cross. Crucifixion is a terrible way to die. It was an unusually cruel and humiliating means of capital punishment borrowed from the Persians and perfected by the Romans. It was normally reserved for robbers, insurrectionists, and murderers…and served as a very effective deterrent to such crimes. For Jews it carried a special shame, “for he who is hanged is accursed of God” (Deut 21:23). Gentiles also considered it the most cruel of all punishments. Yet it pleased God to use this very means to display Christ publicly “as a propitiation in His blood” (Rom 3:25).

Such was the level that Christ was willing to humble Himself and put the interests of others before His own, in order to obey His Father and redeem His people.

May this Christmas season serve as a reminder for us to have this same attitude in ourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.