Portraits of Christ
Jesus the Humble
by Beverly Nickles
Let this mind be in you all, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. But He emptied Himself, taking upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in the form of a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. Therefore God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:5-11)
The Humility of Christ
The Apostle Paul reflects in Philippians 2 on the attitude of Christ Jesus, and exhorts Christians to be like him. Paul points to Christ’s profound humility, a trait that opened the way for his ultimate spiritual victory.
Paul lovingly exhorted Christians to exhibit unity and agreement, and to do nothing by strife or conceit. Paul encouraged Christians in true humility to consider others as better than themselves.
To bolster his appeal, Paul urged Christians to have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus at his Incarnation and during his earthly life. Paul offered the highest possible example to illustrate the virtue he encouraged. He pointed to the voluntary self-humbling Christ demonstrated by becoming human, living commonly, suffering severely, and dying cruelly.
Christ is the supreme example and highest standard for the Christian life and how to live it out each day. Christ showed us the supremacy of humility in God’s eyes. He voluntarily submitted to humiliating circumstances: in the beginning, through the Incarnation; and in the end, by dying on the cross.
The profound depth of Christ’s humiliation comes into clearer focus when contrasting his preexistent form in eternity to the form He assumed on earth.
As a person of the Godhead, Jesus existed before the creation of the world and, in fact, fully participated in its creation. God the Father and the Son are the same in essence and equally God.
As Creator, God formed man in His image, and placed him on earth as its highest life form. He created man to tend the earth and have dominion over all other created things. But even in this highest position, man remained a created being.
So, becoming man required Jesus, first, to infinitely lower himself from the position of Creator God. To enter the world He created, quietly assuming the form of his created being, and even more so as a man of low position. Jesus willingly lowered Himself assuming a servant’s role, determining always to obey and do his Heavenly Father’s will, completing everything necessary to provide mankind with eternal salvation.
Paul states that Jesus, though being in the form of God, “thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” To Jesus belongs all glory, honor, wisdom, power, holiness and majesty. Godly honor was rightly due Him, but he didn’t demand it. Instead, he focused on bringing to mankind blessing and deliverance.
Jesus didn’t eagerly seek after or tenaciously hold onto equality of nature and rank as God. Though his divine nature and essential glory remained in him, He kept under control the exercise of his mighty power. Rightfully, he shared full honor and glory as God, but laid it aside temporarily for the higher goal of redeeming a lost world.
To enter this world he created, a common Jewish girl named Mary was chosen to serve as his mother. Considering it an honor, she obediently submitted to God’s request to serve in the mother role. While still a virgin, she was supernaturally impregnated by means of the Holy Spirit. Before this, she was already engaged to marry the young carpenter, Joseph, though not formally married yet. Mary’s pregnancy out of wedlock caused Jesus to bear the shameful stigma of an illegitimate child.
Toward the end of Mary’s pregnancy, she and Joseph were forced to travel as were many others to fulfill certain taxation requirements. Mary endured a long journey on a donkey’s back, and then all hotel rooms were occupied when they arrived in Bethlehem. All the same, it was Baby Jesus time to enter the world. With his earthly dad, Joseph, serving as midwife, Jesus was birthed in a stinking barn, while his laboring mother lie squeezed in among various domestic animals. They wrapped their newborn babe in clothe, and laid him in a livestock feeding trough to sleep.
Jesus grew up in his hometown of Galilee, a place of such low reputation that people said nothing good came from there. He grew up among his stepbrothers in an ordinary family and learned his dad’s carpentry trade.
At the God-appointed time, Jesus, aged 30, set out on foot to launch his public ministry. John the Baptist inaugurated his ministry by baptizing him, as he had already so many others, in the Jordon River. After that, Jesus fasted and prayed in the wilderness 40 days, victoriously standing against a series of diabolical temptations orchestrated by the devil.
Next Jesus began to gather his first disciples. One by one, he invited 12 ordinary men, among them several fishermen, to follow him and become his disciples. They travelled together usually on foot from town to town mostly depending on kindness and hospitality received along the way.
Jesus taught them the Word exactly following instructions as received by God the Father. And as they travelled, multitudes flocked to him, and he comforted, forgave, taught, healed, delivered and saved them. Diligently, the Son of God selflessly served humanity for three-and-a half years.
But Jesus demonstrated the most profound humility of all at the end of his earthly life by submitting to Roman crucifixion. Being God, he knew from the start the cruel end that awaited him. And instead of pulling back, he embraced it.
During his last gathering with disciples in the upper room, Jesus told them he was leaving. This abrupt announcement shocked them, and they understood nothing about what he really meant. Jesus knew that the Cross now awaited him, and for this cause he had entered the world.
He sent one member of his inner circle, Judas Iscariot, out to complete the betrayal already set in motion. Jesus knew the Roman soldiers together with religious authorities would arrive soon to arrest him. He instructed the remaining disciples to arise and go out with him. Though they were blind to the events unfolding, Jesus knew exactly what he faced.
Jesus met the approaching throng and willingly submitted to arrest as a heinous criminal, knowing he was innocent. Roughly handling him, the soldiers took Jesus into custody to stand trial before Pontius Pilot.
In the palace courtyard, soldiers beat him with their fists and spat in his face. They pressed a crown made with long, sharp thorns into his scalp. And repeatedly and mercilessly flogged his body and face with a whip tipped with several strips of leather, each containing razor-sharp objects. The brutal flogging ripped the skin from his face and body, and it hung from him in bloody strips, exposing his internal organs.
After this prolonged torture and abuse, the Son of God was made to carry a heavy wooden cross through the Jerusalem streets. On that same cross they would hang his bloody body. He dragged his cross through streets lined with angry citizens who taunted him with cruel mockings and insults. The journey ended at the town dump called Golgotha.
Insolent soldiers ripped off his robe and laid him naked on the wooden cross. They nailed his body to the cross, driving heavy iron spikes into his hands and feet. Then they hoisted the cross from which he hung into the air, his body naked and bloody and his face dripping with sweat and spit, and slammed it jarringly into the ground.
Hate-filled towns people and religious leaders paced back and forth on the ground below him, wagging their heads and continuing their insulting onslaught. “If you’re the Son of God, then save yourself.”
There hung the innocent Son of God, cruelly shamed and in excruciating pain. Yet he said nothing to defend himself. He did nothing to free himself. He was paying the price for sin committed by his creation: mankind, created by him in his image. For this purpose, He had entered the world; and resolutely he would see it through to the end.
Jesus died on that cross, and his embalmed body was sealed in a tomb. But after three days, he rose again from the grave. By his resurrection, he overcame death and provided the way to everlasting life for all who would receive it. The only Son of God submitted himself unto death to redeem mankind.
Following Christ’s willingness to endure the ultimate suffering and humiliation, God the Father appropriately rewarded him. The Father exalted him to the place of highest honor and power in the universe, at his own right hand on the throne of glory.
God gave him a name by far higher in rank and dignity than every creature. His redemptive work earned him the right to the title as only mediator between God and man.
So highly exalted is Jesus that it would be proper for all in heaven and earth to respect and worship him. One day the whole universe will confess him as Lord, the universal sovereign, though the fallen and lost will acknowledge him reluctantly. Willingly or unwillingly, one day all will bow to his sovereign will, and submit to the authority of Jesus Christ the Redeemer.