We gain a better understanding of Jesus' humility, greatness, and love by understanding the biblical facts of His death. Jesus was crucified on the cross so that we could receive salvation and God’s gift of eternal life. God’s holiness demands a punishment (death) for our sin; Jesus took our place. He voluntarily suffered an exhausting, agonizing and painful death because He loved us (John 10:17-18).
Meditation on Philippians 2:3-8
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:6, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,”
Jesus is the ultimate example of humility. Jesus was God, the Creator of the universe (John 1:1-3, 10, Colossians 1:15-20), and He became a man (incarnation of Jesus, Luke 2:1-21). When Jesus came to earth from heaven he possessed two natures – a divine nature and a human nature. He never ceased being God but He set aside the glory He had with His Father in heaven (John 17:5) and humbled Himself to become a man (2 Corinthians 8:9). He gave up His divine rights (high position and glory) to be crucified for us (Romans 5:6-8).
Philippians 2:7a, “but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,”
Jesus could have come to earth and demanded that everyone worship Him all day and night. He could have been the wealthiest man on earth with riches beyond imagination. The Bible teaches us that He came to be a servant (Matthew 20:28) and to do the will of God the Father (John 6:38). Jesus was not selfish; He focused on doing what His father sent Him to do.
Philippians 2:7b-8a, “being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,”
Jesus was truly God and truly man. He had characteristics of a man (John 1:14, Romans 8:3, Hebrews 2:17) and He experienced human emotions just like we do. We get hungry, so did Jesus, we get tired, so did Jesus. Jesus endured pain and suffering on the cross that we could never imagine going through. But Jesus, unlike us, never sinned while He was on earth (2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15).
Philippians 2:8b, “he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”
Jesus is our ultimate example of obedience. He was sent by God to die for us and He was obedient to His Father’s will (John 5:19-20). Jesus humbled Himself and was crucified on a cross, a humiliating and excruciating way to be killed (Galatians 3:13, Hebrews 12:2). Jesus came to earth to fulfill God’s plan of salvation for mankind (Isaiah 53:10). The prophet Isaiah foretold Jesus’ suffering on the cross hundreds of years (around 740 BC) before Jesus came to earth (Isaiah 53). You may consider dying for the love of your life or a member of your family, but would you die for a stranger (Romans 5:6-8)?
Imitating Christ’s Humility
Philippians 2:3a, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,”
Selfish ambition is listed among the “acts of the sinful nature” in Galatians 5:20; being selfish is sinful. Pride makes us self-centered, and self-centered people are motivated by their desires. The desires of a selfish person can vary slightly, but typically includes wanting more (possessions, money, higher status, recognition) than they already have or desiring something they don’t really need.
Selfishness effects people around us. In James 4:1-4, James explains that fights and quarrels are caused by desires, covetousness, and not getting what you want. When we want something bad enough, we can be hurtful (physically or emotionally) to others around us, sometimes even those we love the most. We need to pray and ask God to help us get rid of our selfish desires, and trust in Him to provide all that we need.
In Luke 9:23, Jesus commands us to deny ourselves and follow Him daily. We can imitate Christ’s humility by following His example and obeying His commands. We must deny our selfish desires, and be content with what we have. We are to lay aside pride and treat others with respect and common courtesy.
Philippians 2:3b, “but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”
Practicing humility does not mean that we view everyone else as superior, better or more talented, but that Christian love sees others as worthy of preferential or special treatment. Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” We honor people because every person is special, created by God in His image (Genesis 1:27). We need to guard our hearts against prejudice and jealousy towards other people, and serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13).
1 Peter 5:5b-6, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” We worry too often about our “position” or “status” or getting proper recognition for things we have done. We have to remember that God’s recognition is more important than human praise, and He will lift us up in His time.
Philippians 2:4, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
In seeking to imitate Christ’s humility, we should have a genuine concern for the interests of others. Looking to our own interests is ok to do (providing for our family, etc.), but we should have an equal concern for the interests of others. Instead of being selfish, we need to be selfless. Selfless people are concerned with the lives of others. We become involved in the interests of others by sharing with them in the good times (successes, blessings) and being there for them in the bad times (failures, disappointments, sickness, death, poverty).
Jesus demonstrated His love for us by bearing our sins and dying on the cross. In John 13:34-35 Jesus commands His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” If we are to imitate Christ’s love and humility, we must demonstrate to others the love that He has shown to us. At times it will involve sacrifice – giving energy, time, and money or helping someone out when it is not “convenient” – but following Christ’s love involves more than just a feeling, but reveals itself in action.
Philippians 2:5, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:”
In His humility, Jesus Christ was willing to give up His rights in order to obey God and serve people. Like Christ, we should have a servant’s attitude, serving out of love for God and for others. Every day, we can choose our attitudes – do we expect to be served or do we look for opportunities to serve others (Mark 10:45)? Jesus is God, He is unique, even so, as Christians we are called by God to have His attitude of self-sacrificing humility and love for others.
In John 13:1-17, Jesus washed the disciple’s feet, providing us an example of humble service. Jesus was the disciples Teacher and Lord, but he performed a task that was normally performed by a servant. Jesus was teaching the disciples a lesson in humility, John 13:14-16, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater that his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” Following the example of Christ, Christians should be willing to perform the most menial services for other people.
We should always remember, even on they days we choose humility over pride, that it is only by God’s grace and love that we have the ability and desire to serve others. When we imitate Christ’s humility, we are not seeking recognition or a pat on the back, but we do for God’s glory (Matthew 5:16).