And we are to grow in “the same mindset as Jesus”
Article linked to post for March 28, 2021
OT – Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 — Prophetic praise honours the One chosen to be the Cornerstone of our salvation
NT gospel – Mark 11:1-11, John 12:12-16 — Jesus on a donkey colt shows a gentle Messiah of saving and serving
NT letter – Philippians 2:5-11 — Jesus who is God took the form of a servant, able to empty Himself of all privileges to be like us
1. The problem
We commonly pray prayers which finish with the conventional ending “…in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” But what do we really mean by that? We can participate in a church service week after week, but using a form of words doesn’t mean we have experienced the heart change that makes Jesus Lord of our life. That change doesn’t come about by any ritual or sacrament. It is a choice we make to enter into a relationship of complete trust. Participating in genuine praise and worship is a good way to maintain and even grow in that relationship, but first we need to have decided to trust Jesus for who He is and what He has done. No one can do that for us!
The story this week is all about the nature of Jesus Christ: who He is and why He is honoured with such extraordinary greatness. Yet, while He was on earth it wasn’t like that at all. It was the complete opposite.
2. The prophetic allusion to the Cornerstone
Our story starts with verses from one of the psalms pilgrims used to sing to one another as they went up to Jerusalem for the three major festivals.
Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.Psalm 118:19
For the pilgrims, climbing up the hill to Jerusalem, that was about the double gate on the east side of the temple and the city, one of two main entrances. Most likely, it was where Jesus entered the city a week before Passover, and so with our perspective of being able to look back, there is another layer of meaning in the psalm that looks forward to Jesus.
The stone the builder rejected has become the Cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes.Ps. 118:23-24
The wall around the 30-acre temple site was built up on the rock of the Temple Mount and some of the foundation stones can still be seen — the largest is as big as two buses parked side by side. How the builders put it in place, we can only speculate.
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you.Ps. 118:26
The worshippers of that time were expecting a Messiah, an anointed One of God who would be great and powerful and not easily dislodged — like the temple foundation stones. And when Jesus on the young donkey entered the Golden Gate, they were seeing something long foretold, enacted before their eyes.
3. Jesus enters Jerusalem as King
But the manner of His entry was a mixed message. The Galilean pilgrims especially knew Him and had witnessed miracles through Him in their homeland. Others had heard the stories. But Jesus, not mounted on a horse but astride a not-fully-grown donkey colt, hardly cut a conquering figure. Some in the crowd might remember Him saying that His disciples should not seek title, position and authority, following the Roman love of hierarchy — but instead:
Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.Mark 10:43-45
Many in the crowd were waving palm fronds they had brought with them as they journeyed south. The date palm was the symbol of free Israel, and a leader with enough clout to deliver them from the Romans is what they wanted, not a plainly-dressed travelling rabbi on a donkey.
Jesus was coming into Jerusalem and its temple as King.
4. Jesus greatness was such that He could take the form of a servant
But He was a king of such surpassing greatness, that He could be of the essence of God and also take on Himself the form of being a servant.
… Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the vary nature of a servant.Phil. 2:5-7
Most of us feel the need to assert our position from time to time. It is difficult to conceive of someone whose greatness is such, that they have not the slightest need to prove it or demonstrate it. But can do the opposite and take a low position to fulfil a strategic aim, without any thought about status or reputation. Jesus is fully God. For a season He “made Himself nothing”, or literally He emptied Himself and became an ordinary person, even one who could die a shameful cursed death — making Himself the curse that secures our freedom.
I knew a distinguished army officer in the Second World War who was a Major with a DSO decoration in his twenties. An Oxford-educated fluent linguist, he was ordered on a dangerous mission to parachute in to a location in the enemy-held Balkans to give expertise and leadership to resistance partisans there, but they were very down-to-earth people and would not find it easy to accommodate an officer. So prior to the mission he became a sergeant, wearing a sergeant’s uniform, attending the NCO mess and receiving a sergeant’s pay and privileges. For all intents and purposes he took on the form of a sergeant. Then, mission accomplished, he was fortunate to be extracted — and following debriefing was posted to Lieutenant-Colonel, the youngest in the army at that time.
Jesus did rather more. He was not extracted, but put to a slow and agonising death so shameful it was reserved for the lowest criminals of society. By identifying with us and with our sin, but being Himself sinless, he could pay the price. And after being raised to life again:
…God exalted Him to to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name.Phil 2:9
His greatness could take ordinariness in its stride. His greatness can relate to and value us whatever station in life we might be, and regardless of attainments or notoriety.
5. How do we respond
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.Philippians 2:5
We may not have equal roles or equal gifting or experience, but we are all of equal value to the Lord. And that’s the attitude He wants us to carry in to all our relationships. Not like the Roman culture of his day with its distinctions of dress and title, its magistrates processing before the people in their robes — and it’s a temptation we can easily give in to.
Jesus, who possessed true greatness, didn’t need to prove it. He had the capacity to hold it lightly:
Being in very nature God, [He] did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage.Phil. 2:6
Rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in Human likeness.Phil. 2:7
He could be fully God and also be fully man. How? He did not become less than God or stop being God but, in a way which defies description, He emptied Himself of all that divine privilege. Motivated by a kind of love which also goes beyond what words can convey He was born as a very ordinary Jewish baby and grew up, very close to His Heavenly Father, and knowing all the time that He would end up in agony, dying a cursed, despicable death on a Roman cross.
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross.Phil 2:8
Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name.
He wants us, who have new life in Him, to show something of that same capacity — as Paul puts it, to have the same mindset as Christ Jesus — to be able to hold the acclaim and honour of this world lightly. And take the ridicule and rejection in good part because we serve, not ourselves but the one who has the Name above all names.
Recognising the supreme and exalted Lordship of Jesus in our lives, requires us to vacate the throne of our lives. And to humbly bow down to Him, as He steps up to rule and reign in our lives and preferences.
Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Phil. 2:11