Summary: God exalts the humble.
If you’ve been listening to the news this week, you know about the airplane that crashed into the side of the French Alps. Well, I’m going to tell you about another air disaster. This one happened in 2008 when a flight from Madrid, Spain crashed soon after takeoff killing 158 people. It was an accident that should have been avoided. The wing flaps had not been deployed properly on takeoff. They were in the “up” position when they should have been in the “down” position. Because of that, the plane wasn’t able to gain sufficient altitude and it slammed back into the runway.
Did you know that human beings are a lot like airplanes? We’re not equipped with flaps under our arms of course, but our attitude determines our altitude. Our attitude, the way that we think about ourselves and the way that we treat others as a result, will determine our altitude. Of course the world thinks that the way to soar is to exalt yourself and climb on and over others to get ahead. Our text, however, teaches that a humble, downward-facing attitude will actually give us much more altitude. Humility. We’re focusing on that trait this morning because it’s what Jesus demonstrated as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey that first Palm Sunday.
Listen again to the Apostle Paul who wrote the words of our text. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:3-9)
It’s not much of a newsflash to hear Paul remind us that Christians are to be Christ-like in their attitude. We are to put others first and think of what the people around us need to succeed, rather than thinking about what we want others to do for us. But this doesn’t come naturally to us – not even to those who liked each other enough to get married. Wives, you expected your husbands to be your knight in shining armor. And believe me, that’s how we husbands saw ourselves too. We pledged ourselves to you because we really wanted to protect you and make life seem like a fairytale for you. But every knight needs a sidekick – someone to shine the armor and feed the horse. Unfortunately we assumed that that would be your job since you loved us so much.
Is it any wonder then that marriages fall apart because the husband and wife start to keep score of how many times they served the other? Because of that they start to harbor resentment over silly things like she didn’t close the cupboards again, or he didn’t squeeze the toothpaste tube from the bottom! But Paul does not say that we should look to the interests of others only if they look after our interests. No, he says that our attitude should be the same as Jesus’ attitude. Jesus willing served us even though we hadn’t done anything for him. In fact we had done everything to annoy God with our sins and gave him every reason to get rid of us with disgust as if we were a jack-o’-lantern left outside all winter.
But on this Palm Sunday, Paul isn’t content to say that God saved us from sin. He wants us to ponder just how low the Son of God stooped to save us. Paul outlines three big downward steps the Son of God took so he could reach us and lift us up out of our sins. First of all Paul says that Jesus gave up his right to glory. Can you imagine an Olympic champion stepping off the podium and leaving behind the gold medal that belongs to him because he just received word that his mother was very sick and was not expected to live long? Yes, I think you could imagine such a scene. But would that same Olympian leave the medal ceremony, a ceremony he had dreamed of since he was a kid, and had worked years to be a part of, would he leave all that glory behind to rush off to an animal shelter to comfort to a few stray dogs that had been rounded up that afternoon? What the Son of God did in leaving his home in heaven to be with us sinners doesn’t even begin to compare to that.