The Way of the Cross
5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Palm Sunday is near at hand. I've always found it to be a difficult part of the story we tell during this season. It seems to set the wrong tone, and besides, we know that what looks like triumph will end with Jesus dying on a cross. In Philippians 2, Paul helps us set this season in perspective. The triumphal entry does symbolize Jesus' royal claims. But the cross represents the manner in which he inaugurates God's reign.
Here in Philippians 2, Paul points to Jesus and says – if you want to know how to behave toward another, look to Jesus. Look at what he gave up for us? He had divinity in his grasp, but he let it go. He had power and authority, but he let it go. He went so far as taking on the form of a slave. Of course, that form of a slave is, according to Paul – being born in human form. That is – he shares in our bondage, to the point of death on a cross.
This is a most interesting passage, because it reminds us that God is very aware of our realities. God has experienced our realities in and through Jesus. But the point of course, has to do with our demeanor – the way in which we relate to each other. To Paul there's no better model of Christian life than Jesus who chose not to exploit the power of God that was within in his grasp.
When I read this passage, I wonder – if I was in his position, what would I do? Power can be intoxicating. Once we have it, it's difficult to let go. We see it all the time in life. But such is not the way of Jesus. Instead he models for us the way of the servant – the way of the cross. So as we celebrate Palm Sunday, perhaps we can keep things in perspective. Jesus' model of the realm of God looks much different from our human models of power and rule.
[Written as a contribution to the Central Woodward Christian Church Lenten Devotional -- 2014, edited by John McCauslin.]