This past weekend Pastor Krommes said something powerful in her sermon, something that has been stayed with me during this week, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Maybe you, too, have wanted to see Jesus, to know more about him.
Some people experience Jesus through beautiful hymns. Some hymns that are likely familiar to you might be:
What a Friend we Have in Jesus,
Crown Him with Many Crowns,
How Great Thou Art,
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,
To God be the Glory,
Blessed Assurance… singing and hearing these beloved and cherished hymns can help bring us closer to God. They can bring us comfort, and they can remind us of the power of our Lord and Savior. They give us a boost because they show us Jesus and the finished work of the cross and what Jesus has done for us. They reveal his suffering, his glory and the peace and new life that he gives. These hymns encourage us to carry on when life gets hard and to seek refuge in God. When times here on earth seem more than we can bear, we know we can get through any of it, because of the hope we have in him. Give me Jesus, we cry.
The scripture reading for today, Philippians 2:5-11 may or may not be familiar to you. It is called the Christ Hymn. While Paul wrote the book of Philippians we don’t know whether he actually wrote these verses himself or whether the Philippian church was already using this in their church’s liturgy as a hymn that was sung or as a responsive reading or possibly as a creed. But we do know the book of Philippians was written within about 20-30 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection so the Christ Hymn could have possibly been in use so shortly after Jesus was here on earth. As you become familiar with the Christ hymn you may find it to be a remarkably concise and succinct testimony or account of Jesus, eloquently written, like a beautiful hymn. And who knows; you may want to add this passage of scripture to your repertoire of favorite hymns.
If you want to follow along as we study Philippians 2:5-11 it is on page at the bottom of your bullitin. The passage begins early on by acknowledging that Jesus is fully God and fully human. God acts. God does. God makes the move to come to us. God wants a relationship with us. God chooses you and me. Through Jesus Christ we can see what God has done for us and the magnitude of God’s love and sacrifice. Jesus Christ exemplifies the wholeness of God.
We then read that Jesus emptied himself. This doesn’t mean that Jesus lost something, like in math (subtraction); Jesus never lost his divine qualities. Jesus has always been fully God. Jesus emptied himself by adding humanity. Jesus opted to get what humans get, experiences and feelings like hunger, thirst, pain, rejection, anger, betrayal, ridicule, temptation, grief. Jesus had his 40 days in the wilderness. Certainly, we, too, have been through dark, dry times. When we experience suffering, Jesus knows what that’s like. We can go to him. He can feel our pain because he’s had our pain. Jesus, fully God and fully human.
Glancing back at the scripture in our bulletin we now read that Jesus took the form of a slave. This may sound strange to us because we don’t think of Jesus as a slave, so here is where we have to go back to the original Greek language. The writer chose not to say that Jesus came to earth as a human or a man or a person. That would give Jesus too much prestige, apparently. The writer’s original word is “doulou,” which would have been the word for “servant,” the very lowest status in the Roman world. The message here is that Jesus came and couldn’t get much lower; he began life in a smelly barn, sleeping in feeding trough used by animals and then innocently died a criminal’s death. God of all creation humbled himself for all creation. Jesus is our servant King. Jesus came to earth humble and obedient, suffering willingly on our behalf, dying a brutal death on a cross, for us.
On Palm Sunday we celebrate the beginning of Holy week, Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Jesus’ journey to the cross. Palm Sunday is our happy day in holy week because we focus on praising Jesus, shouting Hosanna! And as we look at those who cheer Jesus on we are excited because the people of Jerusalem give Jesus rightful and due praise. But we know that it is short-lived, and as we heard in the Gospel reading, we know what is coming. We know what Jesus will be confronting, the trial before him, the suffering that he will be facing. We see Jesus. We see Jesus suffering on the cross. We see Jesus doing all this for us. And we see his Glory. God’s presence is revealed in the cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus Christ is Lord. Amen.