Summary: Find the highest honor in the lowest places.
John Ortberg, in his book Love Beyond Reason, talks about the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, who pulled into a service station to get gas. He went inside to pay, and when he came out he noticed his wife engaged in a deep discussion with the service station attendant. It turned out that she knew him. In fact, back in high school, before she met her husband, she used to date this man.
The CEO got in the car, and the two drove in silence. He was feeling pretty good about himself when he finally spoke: “I bet I know what you were thinking. I bet you were thinking you're glad you married me, a Fortune 500 CEO, and not him, a service station attendant.”
“No, I was thinking if I'd married him, he'd be a Fortune 500 CEO and you'd be a service station attendant.” (John Ortberg in Love Beyond Reason, Zondervan, 1998, pp. 142-43)
I think that man had an overrated view of himself, which certainly didn’t earn him any respect from his wife.
So how does a man earn respect? How does a woman achieve honor? How do any of us gain the admiration of others? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Philippians 2, Philippians 2, where we find the source of true honor and respect in the example of Jesus Christ Himself.
Philippians 2:5-7 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped [or held onto], but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (ESV)
Jesus, who is God Himself, the King of the Universe, did not hang onto the privilege or prestige of that position. Instead, He let it all go. He emptied Himself, verse 7 says. In other words, the King became a servant!
Now, don’t get me wrong. Jesus did NOT cease to be God when He became a man. No! He simply ceased to enjoy the privileges of that position. He was still omnipotent, all powerful, but He chose to live in dependence upon the Father. He was still omnipresent, everywhere present at the same time, but He chose to dwell in a single body. He was still omniscient, all knowing, but He chose to know only what the Father revealed to Him. Jesus was still Lord, but He chose to become a servant.
Josephus, the 1st Century Jewish Historian, talks about a king who took off his kingly robes and put on the clothes of a beggar to live among his people (Antiquities 10,11). Well, that’s exactly what Jesus did when He became a man. He took off His Kingly robes and put on the rags of a beggar. He made Himself nothing in this world’s eyes.
When concert artists do a concert, they usually present a rider, which spells out what they expect from their hosts. Beyonce, who performed in this year’s Super Bowl halftime show, has such a rider, and just a few years ago (2013), The Daily Star obtained a copy of her rider. It includes the following demands: All crew members must wear 100 percent cotton clothing; alkaline water must be chilled to 21 degrees and served with $900 titanium straws; bathrooms must have new toilet seats and red toilet paper at every venue; hand-carved ice balls should be made after each show to cool her throat; and the host must provide newly refurbished, luxury dressing rooms with enough space that's typically used to accommodate entire sports teams. (“Beyonce’s ‘Diva’ Demand Revealed in Alleged Tour Rider,” Huffington Post, May 2, 2013; www.PreachingToday.com)
Beyonce wants to enjoy the privileges of her superstar status. She is very popular, so she demands and gets what she wants.
In sharp contrast, when Jesus came to earth, He demanded nothing. Philip Yancey says, “God’s visit to earth took place in an animal shelter with no attendants present and nowhere to lay the newborn king but a feeding trough. Indeed, [His appearance] may have had more animal than human witnesses. A mule could have stepped on him.” (Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew (Zondervan, 1995)
Jesus did not demand the trappings of His exalted position when He came to this earth. Instead, He emptied Himself. He let it all go, and He made Himself low. He humbled Himself to the lowest position a man could go.
Philippians 2:8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (ESV)
Jesus hung naked on a cross, where He died a horrible death. This was a punishment reserved for the worst of criminals, among the lowest of the low, in the scum of humanity.