31 December 2007

Philippians 2:5-11

"Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus." (v.5)


These verses make up one of the most profound passages of Scripture and were one of the earliest hymns or statements of faith of the Church. At first glance they seem to be about Jesus' mind or attitude but they are actually more to do with ours (v.5).

'He emptied himself' (v.7)
Of what? His knowledge? His deity? Theologians have been arguing about that for centuries! Some have found it helpful to think of Jesus' nature as not being lessened but concealed. Charles Wesley wrote of one who "emptied himself of all but love" (verse 3 of the hymn 'And can it be'). But whatever it was it was his choice! And our choice is either to cling on to what is "rightly" ours or to be stripped of all such privilege or prestige for his sake.

'He humbled himself' (v.8)
Whatever else 'emptying' meant for Jesus, it was not a concept for discussion but rather a way of life (and death).

"Many who pray for humility would be extremely sorry if God were to grant it to them for they forget that humility and humiliation come from the same root!" (Jean Nicolas Grou, a French Jesuit priest)

'God also exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name' (v.9)
So the one who said, 'Whoever humbles himself will be exalted' (Luke 18:14) is himself raised to life and raised to heaven. And his name, common enough in itself, is raised and placed alongside that of the Father and given to us to revere and worship, to hold to, and to rejoice in forever.


To Ponder

Do concepts like humility or self-emptying mean anything today? Do they need re-interpreting and if so how?

"At the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (v.10-11). How would you relate these verses in a multi-faith context?

What do you think might be in Christ's 'mind' for you, the Church or the world in 2008?

Bible notes author

Revd Leo Osborn

The Reverend Lionel E. Osborn (known as Leo) was born in Birmingham in 1952.