Thursday, May 13, 2010
the shirt off his back
The Word for today:
selah*: Philippians 2:6-8
Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, 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.
Some Bible chapters are so pivotal that they have gained their own descriptive name. The passage we are reading today is called the kenosis. The word derives from the Greek word kenoo, found in Philippians 2:7, which is translated "made himself nothing" (NIV, ESV) or "emptied himself" (NASB).
What Jesus did is empty himself of his glory. He took off his glory like we would take off a coat. (He never emptied himself of his deity; there was never a moment when he was not God.)
There is a striking picture of kenosis earlier in the Bible. Usually the high priest was clothed in garments of beauty and glory. But on the great Day of Atonement, when the high priest took the blood into the Holy of Holies, he put aside his sumptuous vestments. He went into the Holy of Holies in only the simple linen garments that the other priests wore.
What Christmas is all about.
God became one of us to save us. In order to take our place on the cross, he had to become one of us. That is the reason for the incarnation at Bethlehem. He had to be born of woman, born under the law in order to stand in our stead:
But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)
While they gambled for his clothes, Jesus died, probably naked, on the cross. Wearing only the crown of thorns--the curse of sin (1)--he became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Ever the gentleman, he gave the Bride (you and me) the glorious raiment he'd laid aside:
I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness. (Isaiah 61:10)
Quite literally, he'd given it all away. He died, it seems, in order to give you the shirt off his back.
(1) see Genesis 3:17-19
*(We use selah, a term from the Psalms, to mark a verse that is crucial to biblical understanding--so crucial that we should not only mark it in our Bibles, but store it in our hearts.)