Summary: God came to this planet in a way that I wouldn't have ever thought of if I was God. Good thing.
This is a short homily given at an inner-city mission on Toronto, Canada, after a meal and a short time of worship.
Some of you know I have rheumatoid arthritis. If you've seen me much over the past 2 years, you may have noticed me walking slowly, grimacing in pain or sometimes being kinda grumpy. That's been due to the pain I've lived with. For the past 5 months or so, though, I’ve been great. Prayer and new meds have made me feel like a new man.
Now today I saw a new doctor, a new rheumatologist. I had been told two things about this doctor. One was that he is the best rheumatologist in the city. The other was that he is incredibly arrogant.
So, as we all are when we see a new doctor, I was a little nervous going in to see him. Turns out he is really friendly, personable, kind. He's also very confident in his abilities and skills.
Far from being arrogant, I found him pleasantly humble. Isn't that what we like in people? Humility. Humility is having an accurate understanding of who you are, your strengths, yes… But also your weaknesses.
Arrogance is hard to tolerate. Not only is it just plain annoying and off-putting, but I think we have a sense that an arrogant person is an unbalanced person. It’s someone who is overly aware of their strengths, but lacks the ability to assess their own weaknesses. We need to be able to think about our actions and behaviours, our strengths and weaknesses critically if we’re going to grow to be better people.
In the passage that we're going to hear in a moment, we are faced with the way that God chose to show up on this planet. Now, if I was God…Completely perfect, totally holy, capable of doing anything, the recipient of the worship of millions of people…that might go to my head.
And if made the decision to come to this planet, I would probably think it was fitting to come in power and in the fullness of royal majesty. Not sure about you, but that’s likely what I’d be thinking, if I was God.
But let’s listen to how God actually chose to show up when He came to this planet:
Philippians 2:5-11 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the 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 acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So when God came to this planet, He came NOT with the appearance of power, not with His glory evident, and not covered in royal majesty. The Scripture says that Jesus, even though He is God in His very nature, didn’t have any intention of using that fact to His advantage. He didn’t come that way. Instead He came as a servant. What?
Yes…God came to this earth as a servant. Jesus even talked about this. In Matthew 27 He said: “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”.
So Jesus came as a servant and as a sacrifice. That fact never stops blowing my mind.
But it doesn’t end there, just like it didn’t end when Jesus actually was sacrificed, sacrificed for our sins. The passage continues: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the 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 acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.
My new doctor asked me why I came to see him when I already had a rheumatologist. I told him it was in part because I had some doubts about my previous doctor, but I said, to be honest, it was mostly because of my new doctor’s reputation that I chose to go to him.
He smiled and said, "Welcome: I’m going to take good care of you". And I breathed a breath of relief.
Jesus didn’t exalt Himself. Jesus didn’t come to us puffed up. He didn’t come across heavy-handed with most folks. And even the folks He was kinda harsh with – religious leaders who thought they were all that – He loved them and was concerned that their hearts were so calloused toward God.