By James Metsger
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
Jesus emptied himself. That may sound a little strange to us. I suppose we may speak of an athlete who “left it all on the field” or after a busy day, we may say, “I feel drained.” But Jesus emptied himself in a way unlike anything you or I have ever done. Christ existed in the majestic “form of God” from all eternity. He has always shared in the glory of God. In his high-priestly prayer on the eve of his death, Jesus prayed: “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5).
Jesus was, is, and forever will be, glorious.
He existed eternally clothed with the glory of the Father. The “form of God” does not refer simply to his external appearance, but to his being.
Hebrews 1:3 tells us, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” Note that Christ is not a mere reflector of God’s glory. Jesus radiates the actual glory of God! It’s not that Jesus is the spitting image of his Father. He has the very nature of God.
Whenever a baby is born my mom asks, “Who does he look like?” I always say, “I don’t know! He looks like a baby! He’s swishy. And soft. And has little cute fur on his back that will likely come back and fill in when he’s older.” That’s not what Paul is talking about. When Scripture says that Jesus had the form of God, it is talking about his being. The Son radiates the Father. He displays His glory.
In emptying himself, Jesus did not lose his divine nature, but he did not hold on to his equality with God as something to use for his own advantage. Rather than viewing his equality with God as something to keep him ruling on high, he saw it as an opportunity to humble himself and stoop low. Consider the humility of Christ our Lord!
So often, our worldly mindset is turned towards upward mobility. We work for promotion or position expecting to then enjoy the fruit of that position or power. Not so with Jesus! It’s safe to say Jesus was well positioned as Son of God, but he did not see his position in heaven as something to be grasped. Instead, Jesus “emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).
The humility of Christ was seen in Christ’s service. Notice that Jesus, having the form of God, took on the form of a servant. This is addition by subtraction. Instead of taking away his divinity, he added servanthood to it, showing us the vital connection between divinity and sacrifice. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
Christ came to serve. Jesus mastered the whole “My pleasure” thing before Chick-Fil-A ever figured it out. And Jesus spent his final hours doing what he spent his whole life doing; he served.
Here’s a claim that will cause you to stop in your tracks. You can’t know God unless you know you need to be served by God. Read that again. It sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? But it’s true. Of course, Jesus is not your heavenly bellhop. He doesn’t exist to serve every one of your whimsical desires. He does not serve you in that way. He is your Savior, though. He saved you from his own just judgment because of your sin. And in saving you, he served you. In John 13:8, when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”
You and I are desperate for the washing only God can give. We need God to save us—to rescue us. To save us, Jesus served us.
We see this all throughout his life. We see how he gave himself for the sake of others. He spent his last moments on earth like he spent the whole of his ministry–joyfully serving others. In the last hours of his life, he ate a meal with his disciples and washed their feet. The one on high stooped low.
Jesus emptied himself. Jesus humbled himself.
Reflect on the ways Jesus has humbly served you.