Christmas, as we know, is the story of divine condescension. The one and only, the altogether glorious God, robed Himself in human flesh and became a man. In Philippians 2:8, Paul says that Jesus humbled Himself by becoming obedient even unto death on the cross.
But Philippians 2:9-11 gives us the rest of the story.
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 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.”
The wider context of this passage is about imitating the mindset of Jesus. We are to adopt an attitude of humility, even as He has done. But what about the glorification of Jesus can we possibly imitate?
Before we answer that, let’s examine the text. Notice that it is only after Jesus’ super-humiliation, there comes this moment in triumph. Kent Hughes has given a marvellous illustration of just what Paul was saying. Hughes pictures the gears of a catapult being ratcheted down, ever tighter. The pressure is immense, and yet still, the catapult goes down. There is a groaning as a huge log is bent, ever further. The ropes are stretched to a maximum so that when the release is tripped, there is an explosive launch of indescribable exaltation.
Let’s consider what is being said. After the incarnation and the cross, Jesus does not become greater than He was. There is nothing greater than being fully God. What then can Paul mean in the super exaltation of the Son? The answer must be in the fact that Jesus has now been given a name which is above every name. But what is that name?
I think Paul means that the name the Father bestows upon Jesus, is the name “Lord”.
The Greek word is “kyrios”. Bible teachers who study in the original languages notice that when the Old Testament was first translated from its original Hebrew into Greek – the Jewish scholars took the name of God – “Yahweh” – and translated it as “Kyrios”. So – for instance – in Isaiah 42:8 – hear what God says. “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” God alone bears the name “Yahweh” – He does not share that name.
Philippians 2:10-11 is a rough quotation from Isaiah 45:23. “By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’” All knees will one day bow to Yahweh.
And, says Paul, when that happens, all those knees will confess that Jesus Christ is fully Yahweh.
With the incarnation, divine condescension, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the Father has now publicly identified Jesus as His full equal. Of course, Jesus was always the Father’s equal. But now, in the divine condescension of the Son, the Father has gone public, declaring to all of creation, the full equality of the Son.
Ah, but what has this to do with us? The Father will not publicly identify us as His equal – will He? Of course not – He already told us that He will not share His glory with another. So, what can this mean?
In Revelation 3:9, Jesus speaks to the suffering church in the city of Philadelphia. He says of the persecutors of that church, that in the end, when Christ returns, those persecutors will be forced to bow down at the feet of that church and acknowledge that Christ has loved them.
And that is the issue. Don’t be afraid to humble yourself. For you will never be humbled as Jesus was. But if we willingly accept the cost of humiliation and even death for the gospel, we will rule and reign with Christ.
It’s a great thought to have, as we consider the lessons learned at Christmas.