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May 4, 2008

The significance of how Jesus made himself nothing on our behalf

by Dave Malnes

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”  (Philippians 2:5-7)

When Jesus “made himself nothing” on behalf of the world, the original Greek word used for this phrase literally means “emptied himself.” This word was used to describe a person emptying, draining, or pouring out the contents of an object like a teapot. The teapot would still be a teapot, but it would not be holding hot liquid for which it was designed and originally created for.

During his life on earth, Jesus “emptied’ himself or laid aside his full and constant use of his power of God and took on the form of a servant. He was like a powerful king who exchanged his robes of majesty for the tattered clothes of a poor beggar on the street, even though he still retained all the power and authority of a king. He did not lose his power nor was it taken away.

The fact Jesus emptied himself and became nothing becomes in itself an awesome display of the love He has for each of us. He “made himself nothing” by becoming a true, actual man for us, so he could carry out the mission of being our Redeemer.

Christ’s outward “appearance” (fashion, shape, figure) was that of a man.  Paul wrote to the Hebrews, “For this reason (destroy death and Satan, free from the slavery of fear of death-vs. 14-15) he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17)

But Jesus went beyond just being in the appearance of man. Way beyond! Not only did Jesus become a servant among sinful and ungrateful men, but he lowered himself to the lowest of depths of being a man. Jesus “became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

Death on the cross is the most tortuous and shameful death a man could experience. In Old Testament Israel, a person who committed murder were executed and then nailed on a tree or impaled on a pole. This act signified that they had suffered the ultimate curse of being cut off and rejected by God and his people of faith.

We can understand why the Romans used crucifixion as a means to execute Jewish people. If the hanging of a dead body was a curse, how much more shameful would hanging a live person on a wooden cross. Coupled with the excruciating pain and suffering that defies description, this is the incredible humiliation Christ endured for us.

Jesus’ humiliation and death on the cross was his mission to fulfill all Scripture. It was a voluntary act where Jesus became the substitute for the entire human race. He took on the curse of death as a result of our sins in order to carry out God’s plan for our salvation. Jesus, God made flesh, hung on the tree (cross) as one cursed or forsaken by God for our benefit.

Because Jesus removed our sins, God declares us without sin in his sight.  We are set free (justified). Our sins were given to Christ and his righteousness was credited to us. By his act of humiliation, Jesus has restored our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

What words are used to describe Christ’s attitude in his humiliation?

We see the words, nothing, servant, humbled, and obedient to describe Christ’s attitude. Paul is attempting to build a case that since we are followers of Jesus, we are to imitate Christ’s humbleness and sacrificial love. If we truly understand what Christ did for us, how can we not listen to Jesus and love others no matter how difficult the circumstances may be. It is a type of sacrificial love that allows us to love our enemies or at the very least, love people we don’t really like!

Jesus became obedient to death for us, so why not exercise our faith by having the same mind (or attitude) of Christ and serve others ahead of ourselves. Why not make these small sacrifices, especially with Christian brothers and sisters, and serve one another instead of ourselves. As a result, we will be giving evidence that we are beginning to have the attitude of Christ.  It is something out of nothing.

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