It is February 15, 1921. In the operating room of the Kane Summit Hospital, Dr. Evan O’Neil Kane is performing an appendectomy, but this is no ordinary appendectomy. First, it marked the first use of local anaesthesia in major surgery. Dr. Kane believed local anaesthetic was much safer than general anaesthetic, and while many colleagues and patients agreed with him, no one was willing to be the first person to have an appendectomy under local anaesthesia. Because he wasn’t able to find a volunteer for the procedure, he operated on himself!
Dr. Kane put his own well-being at risk to gain his patients’ trust and show his care for them. Jesus did the same thing. He humbled himself by taking on human form and subjecting himself to a cruel, human death.
The readings we heard from Isaiah and Philippians talk about how we are to live like Christ, including suffering for our faith. Isaiah talks about the servant who submits to the father’s will. Paul tells us in Philippians to be like Christ. Christ was the suffering servant Isaiah referred to-the servant who submits himself to the father’s will and a cruel, painful death to save us.
Suffering tests our faith and our relationship with God. When we suffer, we often ask ourselves why God is allowing us to suffer. In cases of accident or sickness, we don’t have any choice in the matter. The suffering servant is suffering because he or she is God’s servant. Somehow the suffering servant has heard that his or her suffering is for the cause of right and therefore he or she believes that God will not abandon the one trying to be faithful.
Christ humbled himself and emptied himself of his deity to obey his father’s will. He emptied himself of his glory. He emptied himself of independent authority. He released the voluntary exercise of his divine attributes. He gave up eternal riches. He gave up his intimate relationship with God the Father.
Obeying God’s will for his life also meant that Christ had to submit to the voluntary humiliation of the cruellest form of torture known at that time-crucifixion. Crucifixion was not simply a convenient way to execute criminals. It was the ultimate indignity, a public statement by the Romans that the crucified person was beyond contempt. The unbearable pain was magnified by the degradation and humiliation. No other form of death could match crucifixion as an absolute destruction of the person. It was the ultimate contrast to Christ’s divine majesty and therefore it was the ultimate expression of his obedience to God.
By lowering himself, he was exalted by God. We must also submit ourselves to God’s will. Paul used Christ’s example to teach us how to live the Christian life. Because Christ was an obedient servant, he serves as a good example for us to follow. When we become servants, we give up the right to be in charge of who and what we serve. When we do, we will be free, but we will also be vulnerable.
Christ calls us to service for three main reasons. First, he wants to rid us of our human pride and selfishness so we can focus our lives on him. Second, by serving others in humility we show our love for Christ. Third, God tests and purifies our hearts through service.
Christ is the ultimate example of selfless humility. He submitted himself to God’s will like a servant submits to the will of his or her master. Jesus calls on us to deny ourselves and follow him through sacrificial service to others. Jesus believed in the Law, taught the Law and lived the Law on the cross. In other words, he didn’t just “talk the talk”. He also “walked the walk”. Just like Jesus submitted himself to God’s will, we are called to submit ourselves to God’s will by worshipping him in true faith and by serving others just like Jesus served others.
The way we act reflects our faith. If we claim to be Christians, people around us will equate our actions with Jesus. In other words we are to act like Jesus would act. We are to follow the Golden Rule. When we lead lives of humble servanthood, when we follow God’s plan and direction, and when we bow down before him we become the disciples that he wants us to be. Only then can we be exalted by God. Only then can we build God’s kingdom here on earth.
In order to be like Jesus, we have to spend time with Jesus. The more time we spend with him by reading and studying his word and talking with him through regular, earnest prayer, the more we begin to think like him. We also become more like Jesus by studying what has been written by other Christian leaders. For example, when I prepare homilies I always consult commentaries and other articles written by pastors such as Dr. Charles Stanley, John MacArthur, Rick Warren, Billy Graham, Charles H. Spurgeon, Dr. David Jeremiah and others. Finally, we can be like Jesus by studying the Bible with other Christians.
As I mentioned earlier, when we become servants of God, we will be free, but we will also be vulnerable. We can’t please God if we don’t have faith. That involves taking risks. Peter took a risk when Jesus told him to get out of the boat and walk to him on the water. He took a risk and was able to do amazing things. There is an old adage “No risk, no reward”. If we are willing to take risks, God can do amazing things for us, to us and with us.
When we have a sense of Christ’s love, we will be humbled. That doesn’t mean that we are weak. Jesus showed us that humility in fact requires great strength and courage, both of which come from an unshakeable faith in God. When we are determined to follow Christ’s example, Satan becomes more determined to stop us. He will use every trick he knows to divert us from godly pursuits. We must be careful not to let interruptions keep us from our time with God.
Even when we follow Christ, we can become discouraged when life deals us challenges. When this happens, it can be easy for us to forget all the good things God has done for us. The only way to correct this attitude of defeat is to do something else Jesus did regularly-pray.
By humbling himself, Jesus was exalted by God. Those who humble themselves before God will be exalted by God. One day we will also exalt him by bowing down before him, but right now we can exalt him by serving others in humility like he did. We suffer and serve with Christ so that we may share Christ’s glory. Those who face the greatest struggles in life hold on to God with all their heart and have the greatest confidence in sharing Christ’s glory.
Nothing is beneath us since Jesus humbled himself and served others. Christ taught us this valuable lesson, so we would be well-advised to listen to him. We need to have humble hearts. Christ valued humility and service, and this should be our model for daily living.
Those of you who are sports fans have seen how some players celebrate great plays. They dance around in the end zone of a football field or get slapped on the back by their fellow hockey players. Others simply toss the puck or the football back to the referee and return to the bench or the sidelines without any fuss. Some Christians are like that. They hope that the few big plays they make in their walk of faith will earn them a spot on Jesus’ team.
When it comes to serving in the church, people rarely ask for positions where they will go unnoticed. If they want to serve in the church, they usually ask for positions of leadership. Now there is nothing wrong with serving in a leadership capacity if that’s what God calls you to do, but God calls us to have a servant’s heart. He wants us to glorify him and not ourselves. God places us where he wants us to serve, and we must give our all in everything he asks us to do. God wants our obedience and our best effort
Eventually, every knee will bow before Jesus and confess him as their Lord and Saviour, as Paul mentions in Philippians 2:10-11. At that time, people who have already humbled themselves before him as a part of their daily lives will not hesitate to bow down before him and give him praise. It will be like they have always been there, and there will be no penalty for excessive celebration.
- ESV Study Bible
- Dunnam, M.D. & Ogilvie, L.J., The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 31: Galatians/Ephesians/Philippians/Colossians/Philemon (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.; 1982)
- Dr. Charles Stanley, “What is the Meaning of the Cross?” Retrieved from Jesus.firstname.lastname@example.org
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publisher; 2006)
- Dr. Charles Stanley, “Christians in the Workplace”. Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Gary Sims, “On Bended Knee”. Retrieved from http://www.MyInJesus.com
- T.M. Moore, “Paths to Mature Thinking”. Retrieved from http://www.colsoncenter.org
- Bayless Conley, “Making a Priority of Faith”. Retrieved from email@example.com
- Joni Eareckson Tada, “Distraction”. Retrieved from http://www.joniandfriends.org
- T.M. Moore, “Nurtured and Refined”. Retrieved from http://www.colsoncenter.org
- Joni Eareckson Tada, “Therefore…”. Retrieved from http://www.joniandfriends.org
- Anne Graham Lotz, “The Way Up is Down”. Retrieved from http://www.angelministries.org
- Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 24th Sunday (B)”. Retrieved from http://www.preacherexchange.org
- Tim Hall, “Heavenly Connection”. Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tracie Miles, “What Has God Done for ME Lately?”. Retrieved from Encouragement_for_Today@crosswalkmail.com
- Dr. Charles Stanley, “The Call to Serve”. Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Rebecca Barlow Jordan, “Humility”. Retrieved from Christianity.email@example.com
- Dr. Charles Stanley, “Fully Submitted”. Retrieved from In_Touch_With_Charles_Stanley@crosswalkmail.com
- Joe Gibbs, “Take a Knee”. Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Joni Eareckson Tada, “The Interests of Others”. Retrieved from http://www.joniandfriends.org
- James MacDonald, “How did Jesus ‘Empty’ himself?” Retrieved from Jesus.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. David Jeremiah, “Becoming Like Christ”. Retrieved from email@example.com