Summary: Jesus shows us the way to please God ... for Jesus the way up was down!
Title: The Jesus Paradox
Thesis: Jesus shows us the way to pleasing God. For Jesus the way up was down!
A paradox is something that is contrary to expectations, existing beliefs or perceived opinions. It is a statement that appears to be self-contradictory or silly but includes a latent truth.
For example there is a paradoxical line in George Orwell’s Animal Farm that goes like this: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” In Orwell’s context he was saying everyone is equal but the government does not treat everyone equally.
Our paradox today is the interesting twist that for Jesus, the way up was down!
On Palm Sunday Jesus road into Jerusalem on a donkey to the cheers of an enthusiastic and expectant crowd of adoring followers. They were hip deep in Zechariah 9:9 - 10: “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey – riding on a donkey’s colt. He will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all the weapons of battle and your king will bring peace to the nations. His realm will stretch from sea to sea and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.” Their expectation was for a king right then and there.
We have an understanding of that prophecy that is expressed in The Revelation Song which speaks of Jesus as “He who was and who is and who is to come.” It’s a now but not yet paradox.
Our text begins by outlining some relational character qualities befitting those who are followers of Jesus.
I. A Lofty Ideal – Humility as an aspiration
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Philippians 2:1-5
In that it is the Lenten Season and this being Palm Sunday our Gospel and Epistle texts are all about Jesus but here in Philippians 2:1-5, it is all about us. When we read verses 1-5 we know it is directed specifically at us. In its original context the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Christians who made up the church in Philippi, i.e., the followers of Christ and the elders and deacons who lived there.
In most instances we know that the letters written to specific churches were written to speak to specific issues. In this case it seems that the people in the church in Philippi were having some problems getting along. They were pretty conflicted. They were in disagreement. They were not loving each other and they were not unified. Apparently there were some people who were self-seeking and others on ego trips.
In his letter Paul is attempting to remind the folks there that it would be good if they patterned their relationships after Jesus. “You must have the same attitude that Jesus had.” 2:5
These verses are indeed lovely but totally counter-intuitive in our culture. These verses defy conventional wisdom in a world that is about getting ahead, looking out for #1, rising to the top in a dog eat dog world, be a winner, take no prisoners world. We do not typically think of humility as an aspiration in the real world. And yet that is exactly what God wills for us… in the in our homes, in the workplace, in our neighborhoods, in our church and in our world.
A young rabbi found a serious problem in his new congregation. During the Friday service, half the congregation stood for the prayers and half remained seated, and each side shouted at the other, insisting that theirs was the true tradition. Nothing the rabbi said or did helped solve the impasse.
Finally, in desperation, the young rabbi sought out the synagogue's 99-year-old founder.
He met the old rabbi in the nursing home and poured out his troubles. "So tell me," he pleaded, "was it the tradition for the congregation to stand during the prayers?"
"No," answered the old rabbi.
"Ah," responded the younger man, "then it was the tradition to sit during the prayers."
"No," answered the old rabbi.
"Well," the young rabbi responded, "what we have is complete chaos! Half the people stand and shout and the other half sit and scream."
"Ah," said the old rabbi, "that was the tradition." (As retold by P. J. Alindogan, The Potter's Jar blog, "Communicate and Relate” 9-4-11)
Apparently the church at Philippi had a similar tradition… they were living in conflict and lacking in love.
A. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3