Summary: “Don’t You Know Who I Am?” 1) I’m your servant: imitate my humble service. 2) I’m your Lord: anticipate your heavenly crown.
“Don’t you know who I am!?!” You wouldn’t be surprised to hear that from someone standing at the executive class check-in who isn’t getting the kind of service he thinks he deserves. Of course you don’t have to be a minor celebrity or a high-powered CEO to demand: “Don’t you know who I am!?!” You might say that if you’re in grade nine and are being disrespected by a kid from grade seven. Or you might think that when the new guy at work asks you to photocopy some stuff for him and to bring him a coffee while you’re at it.
Throughout his life on earth Jesus, the Son of God, was often treated so poorly that he would have been justified in exploding: “Don’t you know who I am!?!” Through the words of the Apostle Paul this morning we’ll learn again who Jesus is and what that means for us.
Our text is a portion of a letter Paul wrote to the Christian congregation in the Greek city of Philippi. Paul had great affinity for this congregation and wrote to thank them for support they had sent while he was in prison. Paul also took the opportunity to encourage the congregation in Christian living. He said: “3 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…[who] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:3-5, 7a).
Was there a problem in the Philippian congregation of members saying to one another: “Don’t you know who I am!?!” If there was, Paul wanted them to consider this question instead: “Don’t you know who Jesus is?” The answer: Jesus is our servant. Jesus proved his servanthood in many ways. The night before he was crucified he washed his disciples feet – a task normally reserved for the lowest slave in the household. Then the next day he washed sinners clean of their sins by giving his life on the cross. Paul puts this act into perspective when he wrote: “6 [Jesus], 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 2:6-8)
If you walked into the parliament building, you’d be surprised to find the Prime Minister scrubbing the visitors’ toilets wouldn’t you? That’s not what “important” people are expected to do. On the contrary important people usually expect us to worship the ground they walk on. But Jesus was not like that. Although he is God from eternity Jesus never used his deity for self-glorification. He never acted like the Super-Bowl-ring-wearing football star who gets annoyed when he’s pulled over by the cops. “Can’t they see the honking ring on my finger?” he thinks. “These guys should be awed to be in my presence. Who do they think they are trying to give me a speeding ticket?” That wasn’t Jesus. He didn’t show off by riding into Jerusalem on the wings of angels on Palm Sunday, though he could have. Instead he borrowed a donkey and clip-clopped into the city. When he fed the 5,000 with a little boy’s lunch it wasn’t so people would make him king (though they tried). He performed this miracle because people needed to eat. Jesus used his divine power to serve, not brag or show off. In fact of all the miracles Jesus performed before his crucifixion I can only think of one that was done mainly to show off his divine glory – and that was done in secret. Only Peter, James, and John saw Jesus shine in brilliant glory on the Mount of Transfiguration.
So who is Jesus? He is God from eternity who became our servant. He set aside his beautiful heaven, his glorious appearance, and his ultimate authority in order to cleanse us from our filthy sins. Nothing would stop him for accomplishing this, not diaper rash, not acne, not the flu, not blisters from walking in open-toed sandals, not ridicule, and not even death. Would you do the same? Would you jump into the sewer and dive underneath the foul water with your eyes open to find and save someone who had stumbled into that slime while trying to throw rocks at you? That’s what Jesus did. Perhaps Mark 10:45 says it best: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”