WE GREET OUR KING
Dear Christian friends,
We are at the high point of the Church year. It would be interesting to get into the head of an unbeliever to understand what he thinks is going on. Usually some network is replaying the classic movie Ten Commandments. It comes out at Easter but it doesn’t even get close to telling the story of Jesus’ resurrection, much less why it is important.
Perhaps it would be even more interesting to get into the head of the Easter/Christmas person. Obviously that person knows that Jesus is important enough to show up two days of the church year, but what about the rest? Apparently that person will keep Jesus at arm’s length and not get real serious about him as he/she skips the other fifty Sundays. I remember a pastor once complain “Yeah, sometimes people love Jesus only when it is convenient or when family is in town.”
2000 years ago many people had gathered in the city of Jerusalem to celebrate an important Jewish religious festival called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It included the Passover. There was commotion in the city. They saw a rather common looking man on a donkey, but many knew who it was. For three years he had been wowing crowds with what he did and what he taught; lots of people were singing his praise. It is important for us to consider “How Will You Greet Jesus?” 1) He is the servant of servants; 2) He is the Lord of lords.
There was always a lot of debate over the validity and usefulness of the space program. I saw an article in the news this week lamenting the fact that if we want to go to the space station we have to hitch a ride on a Russian rocket. Right now our relationship with Moscow is not the best. Who knows if that would be possible!
But for all who think that getting to the moon and back and putting the space station into space was wasted money, our scientists found out a lot of things and invented a lot of useful items for daily life. Not only did we find that the moon is not made of green cheese after all, probably the greatest invention that came from the space program was the computer chip and heat resistant materials and thousands of other items that have application to daily life.
As we read Philippians 2, Paul urges God’s people to practice humility. Practice humility just like Jesus did. There is no greater example. As a byproduct of telling us about Jesus’ humility, the apostle tells us about Jesus. “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.” The man on the donkey was more than just a man – he was more than flesh and blood – more than the man from Galilee – more than a Jewish carpenter. Paul says he is in “very nature God.” Anyone who denies that denies the Bible…and there are far too many who do.
The Bible calls him God. Isaiah the prophet said, “And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” Another Bible passage says, “In him dwells the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form.”
Not only does the Bible call him God, he claimed to be God. There was a time when Jesus said, “Before Abraham was I am.” The people to whom he was talking exploded with anger because of what he was saying. He was calling himself I AM. That is the name God wanted the people of Israel to call him in the Old Testament – Jaweh or Jehovah. It means “I AM.” Besides claiming himself to be Jaweh, he was also saying that he lived before Abraham. Abraham lived 2000 years before Christ. He was claiming, and rightfully so, that he was God. In his High Priestly prayer Jesus spoke of “the glory I had with you before the world began.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that he was claiming to be one with the Father from eternity.
He also had the characteristics of God. He was holy and never sinned. He was eternal. He knew all things. He knew what was in the hearts of people. He told the Samaritan woman he knew that she had been married five times and was living with her sixth man. He knew about things before they would happen. He knew that he would go to the city of Jerusalem to be betrayed, that he would suffer, he would die and rise again on the third day. The disciples got so accustomed to hearing things like this that Peter said of Jesus, “Lord, you know all things.” Jesus knew things that only God could know. He knew that in heaven “no one would be married or given in marriage.” In heaven “there are many rooms.”
He did things that only God could do. Only God could say to a storm, “Be still” and it was stilled. Only God could say to the blind, “See” and people could see. Even Nicodemus, who came to Jesus in the dark, said, “No one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
The apostle says that “Jesus even though in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” I am not a Greek scholar but when I translated this sentence I translated who being in the essence of God did not consider it an act of seizing anything to be equal with God. In other words, to call himself God was not stealing something that wasn’t already his.
Imagine what it must have been like to have all that power. We see the kings of Egypt build monuments to themselves. That’s what the pyramids are. They are a show of arrogance. They claimed they were gods. Jesus never did that. When he was hungry, he did indeed have the power to turn stones into bread. He didn’t. When they said, “If you are the Son of God, then come down from the cross,” they would have been stunned if he had. He didn’t because paying for the sins of the world was at stake.
But in all that that he did he was here to serve. Paul tells us here that Jesus “made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness.” The Greek tells us that Jesus “emptied himself.” That doesn’t mean he quit being God, because he continued to do miracles, but it does mean that he set aside the full use of this power all the time.
There was a purpose. God had a plan to save humanity. His Son, his one of a kind son, became the servant of servants. He took on human form and “being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Admittedly this is a bit hard to understand; it is hard to put into words; it is hard to understand how our great God could take on human flesh; how he could know all things and yet according to his human nature grow in wisdom and stature; how he could create the universe by the power of his word and then not have a place to lay his head. The apostle’s Creed says it like this that “he was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified died and was buried.”
Isn’t it ironic that most of mankind would like to be remembered by what hey have done while they are alive? Yet we do remember Jesus more for his death. Sure we remember his sermons and his miracles, but we do remember him for what he did in death for us. Paul once said, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to he Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Dozens of Bible passages say it. To die and pay for the sins of all. To offer a payment that could cover everyone. He became for us the Servant of servants.
But he is also the Lord of lords. Jesus’ life doesn’t end with “he became obedient unto death, even death on the cross.” Paul says, “Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him he 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.” Three days was enough for Jesus to be in the grave. From then on he pulled out all the stops. There is no veil any longer. Jesus story doesn’t end in the tomb either. In fact, it doesn’t just include the resurrection from the dead either. His exaltation includes the descent into hell, the resurrection on the third day, his ascent into heaven on the fortieth day after Easter, his sitting on the right hand of God, and the fact that he will come again to judge the heavens and the earth.
He descended into hell, not to suffer there but to preach. The Scriptures say in I Peter, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.” After Jesus was raised to life he went to preach to those imprisoned. Who were the imprisoned? Those who had disobeyed in the days of Noah. These people were in hell. Jesus went to preach to them. His very presence showed them that he was the one that they rejected when Noah preached for 120 years as he was building the ark. For us to know we have a Savior who descended into hell and came out again, shows the completeness of the victory we have over hell itself. Hell is rendered irrelevant in the lives of Christians. Jesus defeated hell.
The exalted Jesus arose from the dead. We celebrate it every Sunday but especially next Sunday. He showed himself to be alive to over 500 people and by faith to millions on this earth today. We have a living savior. Death has been defeated. Sins have been paid for. The resurrection proves it.
The exalted Jesus ascended into heaven to prepare a place for us so that we can be where he is.
He is at the right hand, not limited by time or space. He is exercising full power over the world that is under his feet. He is interceding for his church for his nail wounds in his hands and feet are a constant reminder to the saving work he did for us 2000 years ago.
He is coming again to judge the world. But don’t worry! We are forgiven. We have been declared innocent of our sins because the servant of servants and the Lord of Lords. Remember this same one is the Savior of Saviors. He is also our judge.
There is no one like him. He even has a name that is above all other names. “There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” No matter if the history books say a lot about Aristotle or Alexander the Great or the Apostle Paul, no one has a name like Jesus has. No one saves like Jesus saves. One day all will know it. All people will one day give Jesus name the honor that it deserves. Believers will do it happily in heaven; unbelievers will do it unhappily in hell. So as we begin this Palm Sunday to remember the greatest week that ever was, remember who that one was on the donkey entering the city of Jerusalem – the Servant of servants who is the Lord of lords. Follow him, not half-heartedly, not just on certain days of the Church year. Worship him always as he deserves.