Friday, July 9, 2010

the form of a servant (de incarnatione, pt. 2/3)

"Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives." (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Given the holistic approach/emphasis we just discussed to the Person and work of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, we are better equipped to understand the goal of the incarnation mentioned in Hebrews 2:14 (the initial discussion can be found here). Namely, Jesus uniquely entered into humanity by partaking of our common and shared heritage, being made of flesh and blood, and He did so (in part) with the goal of liberating us from the fear of death that debilitatingly enslaves us and destroys our communion/fellowship with God. And He did so by becoming incarnate, by becoming fully human, so that He might conquer death through death to remain ever victorious in His resurrection and ascension. Yet, in this singular event of the incarnation, we witness unmatched humility as we realize that one of the uncreated Persons of the infinite and eternal Triune Godhead did indeed stoop so low as to, "for our sake and for our salvation", become created, inhabiting finitude and mortality, though this was in no way to the depreciation of His divinity. One of the most beautiful images of this condescension and humility is found in John 13. Jesus is with His disciples (including His betrayer, Judas) sharing their final meal together before He inaugurates the New Covenant with His own body and blood:

"Now, before the Feast of Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them until the end. During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded." (John 13:1-5)

This manifestation of servitude is a true expression of the essence of the humility and meekness that marks a key element in the doctrine of the incarnation and Self-voluntary death of Christ, who "did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). And this example has become, or should become, our expectation, as it is this servanthood to which we are called (see John 13:13-17). Similarly, we find an exhortation to follow Christ's humble example in Paul's letter to the Philippians:

"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." (Philippians 2:3-4)

Upon what authority is this exhortation given? Is it merely the authority of the Apostle Paul? No, for its authoritativenes (and immediacy for our own lives) is founded upon the very principles of the incarnation and voluntary Self-offering of our great and perfect example embodied in human flesh, Jesus Christ, which are mentioned in Hebrews 2:14-15. Accordingly, Paul continues his exhortation by saying:

"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. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:5-8, emphasis added)

Again, "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). This service is evidenced by Jesus' partaking of that which we humans share - flesh and blood - in holy condescension, with the goal that He would definitively trample down death by death in order to raise us to new life. This is the "attitude," as Paul puts it, that God desires to be in us through the power of His risen Son who leads us in perfect humility.

No comments:

Post a Comment