Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Sermon for Palm Sunday 04/10/22
The Mind of Christ
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The Palm Sunday Gospel is about a triumphal ride among cheering throngs, and children with palm branches singing "Hosanna!". Well, not actually. It is actually about the coronation ride of Jesus into the jaws of death. We often talk about it as the wonderful event that captured all of Jerusalem and make a big deal out of it. But that is not what happened. Not exactly.
In the modern Church Year in the newer hymnals, the church calls Palm Sunday, "The Sunday of the Passion." It is all about pain and suffering. The Church often does Good Friday sorts of things in the modern Palm Sunday because so few laymen seem to be willing to come to church on Good Friday any more. But that isn't what Palm Sunday is really about either. It is partly one thing, and partly another. There was a Palm Sunday ride – and it was the coronation of Jesus as King of Israel. The people acknowledged Him for a day or for an hour. He heard the praises. The multitude probably did not encompass the whole city, but a crowd around one gate as Jesus rode in on a borrowed donkey. But Jesus knew that no matter what anyone said today, He was going to die on Friday.
What must it have taken, what sort of attitude or thought process must Jesus have had to ride into town, and walk the path we call holy week, knowing He was going to face betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, and death? It would require self-possession. It would require a real sense of mission. It would require an enormously strong will, and it would require humility of a remarkable quality. And this frame of mind is what we are exhorted to imitate in our text, when Paul writes, "have this mind among you." We consider that message to the Philippian Christians this morning, with the theme, "The Mind of Christ."he whole city, but a crowd around one gate as Jesus rode in on a borrowed donkey. But Jesus knew that no matter what anyone said today, He was going to die on Friday.
The chief characteristic of this attitude or frame of mind is humility. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself. That is humility. Jesus Christ was God – is God, but that is another discussion.
Whatever it is to be God, with all the power and glory and whatever, Jesus had it. He could do anything, anywhere, anytime. Without exercising sinful imaginings, there is no way to appreciate what Jesus had or what He gave up. But He did not count that possession too great or too precious or too important to be set aside. He did not hold His own glory and power and prerogatives as more significant or desirable than our salvation. He counted redeeming us as more important than the enjoyment of His own participation is the glories of the Trinity for a time.
Jesus didn't give up being God, or all of the powers and glory of God forever. He set them aside for a time. He laid aside His power and took on human frailty. He laid aside His knowledge and became an infant in the womb. He laid aside His glory and became not merely human, but a helpless child, in an insignificant family, in a backward region of a poor nation under military occupation, at a time we would consider primitive. That is what Paul means when he says that Jesus "emptied Himself." That is humility, humbling Himself beyond all reason and setting aside His own comfort, glory and prerogatives for the well-being and salvation of His enemies – us – sinful man. He set aside what He deserved for us and counted nothing as "too much" to give in order to accomplish His purpose which is our redemption from sin and death and hell.
That is the attitude that we are challenged to imitate and emulate and make our own. If you want to think like Jesus – and believe me, if you are a Christian YOU DO – then this is what you should imitate, humility. Nothing should be too much to lose for the sake of Christ, or for the sake of His Gospel, or for the sake of His people. No indignity should be more than you can bear. No insult should be too much to take. No embarrassment should be enough to stop you, and no loss, even to the point of your life, should be beyond what you are willing to give.
That was the "mind of Christ" – humility which permitted Him to become one of us, and to die so violently and shamefully for us. We are to partake of that humility too. We are to humble ourselves in our own minds so that our interests and our comfort can take second place to the welfare and spiritual health of others! This is not about allowing someone to make you do something, it is about doing it yourself, because it is right, setting others and their needs first before our comforts, our preferences, our personal pride, and even our own needs simply because it is the will of God that we do so.
Of course, that means that we have to avoid the silly talk that often happens in American churches about "rights". Jesus set aside not only what He had a right to, but what He flat out deserved, and what was already His. He didn't simply forego a potential something, He set aside what He already possessed, and He counted equality with God as something He could and would relinquish to accomplish His purpose of salvation for you, and for you, and for me. So, with the mind of Christ, you don't have the right to decide. You must seek out and learn and follow His decision. You don't have the right to do what you want to – politically, as an American, of course you do – but not as a Christian and as a member of the Church and as a slave of God in Jesus Christ. At the door of the house of God, talk about rights, what we deserve, and how we can do what we want to do, must stop, and humility must rule. The Church is not a democracy – it is a monarchy, and Jesus Christ is the King.
Is this Law? Yes, but not in the sense that you must do it or you cannot be saved. This is properly the response of the heart of the one captivated by the truth of the Gospel. This is what happens when you have been saved, and you believe the goodness of God, and you understand for yourself what Jesus did to redeem and save you. This is the fruit of faith. This is how we are encouraged to respond to the knowledge of Christ and His humility on our behalf.
Tacitus, a Roman writer and philosopher, who hated Christians and strongly encouraged their persecution, wrote in abject wonder in the second century of the Christian Church, "See how those Christians love one another." How long has it been since anyone, friend or foe, said something like that about us? But that kind of care for one another is what the humility of Christ is all about. When you look at the task, it seems too big. Who could care for others like that? How could you take care of yourself and do this? Doing this would consume all of our time and energy and our resources! We would be left with nothing!
And the answer of God would be - "Precisely!" The mind of Christ is the attitude of humility marked by love. He loved us so much that He endured the loss of all things. He was willing to even set aside the glory of being God to take on our human flesh and blood and human nature. He loved us so much that He was willing to endure the assault of human sinfulness while He lived a perfect and sinless life. His love was so deep that He was willing to take our sin on Himself and endure the wrath of God against us, so that we will never need to. The passion and the cross were truly terrible, and the wrath of God which caused Him to abandon His only-begotten Son to bleed and die on the cross alone is beyond our comprehension, and the humility of Jesus Christ led Him to do all of that so that we might be forgiven, justified, and brought into the love of God by grace, and adopted into His family as not merely slaves, but as brothers! His resurrection and eternal life are also ours. It is won for all men, and poured out on all and possessed by those that trust God and believe His Word and love. "He that believes and is baptized, shall be saved!
Jesus did not just give up glory and power. He gave up His life. [He] emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. He became one of us. He took on the form and nature of those He had created to be His servants - His slaves. He became everything you are, except for sin. He carried the aches and pains. He carried the troubles of life. He carried emotions and joys and griefs. He endured not being able to have it His way at every moment, of having others decide for Him. He was a normal guy, except that He was also God, enduring this normalcy and humbling Himself to submerge His power and glory in this human nature.
And then, our text tells us, He humbled Himself even to death. He did not deserve to die. He had not sinned and earned death. He deserved life. He nevertheless allowed men to take Him captive – when He could have disabled them with a thought or wiped their existence away with a word. He allowed them to mock Him where He deserved praise and glory, and to beat and torture Him where He deserved worship and adoration. He even prayed for those who tortured and abused Him, that God would not hold this sin against them.
Then He died. They did not kill Him. He set His life aside by His own power and died at just the right moment by an act of His will. Still, He humbled Himself to permit them to drive nails through His hands and feet and hang Him on a cross – an instrument of monstrous torture and death – and thereby took upon Himself a curse He had spoken Himself in Deuteronomy 21:23 – "he who is hanged is accursed of God" or, as the curse is paraphrased by the Holy Spirit in Galatians 3:13, "cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree."
He humbled Himself for you to the point of becoming the curse for us, and taking the curse of God against the one who would die on a tree on Himself and died deliberately in our place. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. That is how far He humbled Himself - and because of it your sins have been forgiven, you have been given eternal life, and you will rise from your grave on that great day to sing in His true triumphal parade on that grand and glorious Palm Sunday of eternity!
And seeing that, Paul encourages us to have the same attitude – to have the Mind of Christ. Paul is inspired to add an inducement to the picture by reminding us of the reward for Jesus, for His humility and obedience to the will and plan of the Father; Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
His glory was increased, and His joy, by enduring the things God set before Him on the path of the will of God. And what is the will of God? Our Salvation.
Just as it was for Jesus, it will be for us as well. We will not lose by imitating His humility. It is true, you may well be left with nothing, but that would be nothing of this world, not nothing at all – and you will be leaving behind everything of this world one day soon, anyhow. Imitating the attitude of Jesus receives the same good pleasure of God. The blessings are not the same, of course, just as the tasks we will perform are not the same. But God will also reward our true humility with a true glory of our own and bless us each with life eternal — and that in glory beyond our comprehension. Whatever we may have is what God has given us to use in His service. The truth is that He may not require every blessing and every treasure be given up and poured out for Him upon our neighbor. But even if He did, it would be well worth it. Jesus said so, in Matthew 19, and in Mark 10, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life."
We will not lose treasures, we will not lose joys, we will not lose our lives, but gain them, and far more. Any loss we may suffer now is but for a time, and the reward and the joys will be forever. God has promised to return and repay all of our losses. We will not lose a thing, only, perhaps, delay the enjoyment for a time. And it is all so that God may work through us just as He did through Jesus – that His will might be fully accomplished for us and those to whom God would have us bring the good news.
But this attitude is not something you or I can simply do on our own. I am not telling you to grit your teeth and work it up in yourself and do the unpleasant. I am encouraging you to live in the light of the truth of the Gospel. God loves you, and He will provide. He knows everything you need, and everything you do. And to strengthen us and encourage us and enable us to possess the mind of Christ, He has left us this meal. Here we receive the very body and the true blood of our Lord Jesus. We eat and drink here, and we are cleansed and forgiven and strengthened and renewed so that we might walk before Him as faithful children and diligent servants. Here, in this Holy Supper, is the will and the ability to think like Jesus. The power and the humility are here too. Here God would feed us with this precious and life-giving food and strengthen our faith, and increase our love, and enable us to do His will from the heart.
So, come, eat and drink and be strengthened and cleansed and prepared. Let God feed your souls as He does your bodies, and make you able to change your mind, by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that you will be able to think like Jesus. You cannot outrun God's goodness or out-give His generosity or overestimate the care and concern which God has for you. What God is saying through Paul, and through me, this morning, is to walk in the light of the love of God, and live true Humility. Trust God to be your supply, and take care of one another. Live as though God has given you everything you need, and He has placed you here to love and take care of one another, and to share His love with those who have not yet believed. Then you will also find true Glory, for the glory of God is that He did all that He accomplished in Jesus Christ - for sinners - for you and for me. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)