We are united in Christ, now in His suffering and humiliation, then finally in His resurrection and exaltation; let His life be yours.
Let this insight be in you, which was in Christ Jesus.
Palm Sunday, that beautiful remembrance of Christ’s procession as the coming king into the city of God and to the altar of His temple. The beginning of the last week of His life, as He fulfilled the promises to the people of old; the king come to be crowned, yet with thorns on the throne of the cross (Isaiah 23:5); the priest to offer the final sacrifice on the altar, the sacrifice of the true Pascal lamb by which those trusting would be saved (Psalm 110:4; Isaiah 53:7); the servant who would bring salvation to all the nations, by His suffering, death and His resurrection and exaltation to God’s right hand, to His almighty power (Isaiah 49:7). And you are with Him in this. You know you are joined with Christ through baptism by the Holy Spirit, that we together are members of His body, that we share in His life, and so as the apostle says ‘let this insight be in you, which was in Christ Jesus’ let His life be yours.
And what is this insight? The Spirit teaches us with this ‘Christ hymn’ that the Second Person of the Trinity, the pre-incarnate Son, didn’t consider the almighty power and authority He possessed as God as something to be clung to, as we might clutch at good health, wealth or safety. His status as equal with the Father was not something He prioritised, like we might prioritise our position at work, or our status as citizens. Rather He gave of Himself taking the form of a servant to serve others though He is truly Lord of all and rightfully all should be serving Him, yet He came as a servant. He was incarnate, He took on our humanity in its fullness. He humbled Himself, from Lord of all to be a servant for all, from creator of all to be not just a human, but a human embryo, taking on our humanity from its beginning. And having become obedient, or in the Greek more ‘truly listening’ or ‘under to what is heard’, listening to His Father even to death, His excruciating passion flogged, shamed, and crucified.
Now we’ll take a break before going on. That insight of Christ is to not cling to the things this fallen world values, to power or authority, rather to fully listen to our Heavenly Father and live that out. Today I’m not going to highlight the truth of our sinfulness, and our helplessness. Instead I pray that the Holy Spirit has already done His Work, through the liturgy and the Word, that you who have been arrogant in your sin have been crushed, that God’s law has shown you that you fail to live with Christ’s humility and obedience. But now broken sinners do not despair, hear again God’s promise to you that, ‘you were united with Christ Jesus by baptism into a death like His, and shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.’ (Romans 6:4-5). But what was His resurrection like? We’ll go back to the text.
Jesus humbled Himself, incarnated and died in obedience with God’s Word, fulfilling His promises. Therefore God highly exalted Him, He put everything under Christ’s feet, His power. He graced Jesus with the name or reputation above all others, that when all things, from the highest archangel to the lowest worm, when all hear Him we will glorify and praise Him, truly and rightly honouring Him and confessing together that Jesus Christ is Lord, master and king of all; to the glory of God the Father. This is an incredibly dense text, and where is the good news for us here?
The first half tells us what Jesus did, humbled, took on our humanity, died in accord with the promises. Then the second half tells what our Father in Heaven did in response, exalted Him above all things that all recognise Jesus as Lord. But why is this Good News for us? We’re told to let this way of life to be our way of life, to always live as Christ lives; how can we hope to measure up to what Jesus did, how much He loved all people, even those hating Him? Well it’s like St Paul, who was a murderer of Christians, writes elsewhere and honestly throughout his letter here, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). We have been joined with Christ, He came to God’s city as King, came to the temple the earthly altar and sacrificed Himself destroying our sin and reconciling us to our Father. And we participate in this, are joined with Him, as we eat and drink His body and blood (1 Corinthians 10:16). Holy Communion is a foretaste of the wedding feast of the slain Lamb at the end of time (Revelation 19:6-9); when Christ marries us His church, a full and completely, perfect union of us lowly humans with God Almighty, our evil already dealt with, and then only the pure and beautiful love of God between us all.
Our common union together with Christ is what Holy Communion is, that’s where we’ve got the words. That we will be exalted and unified with Christ, reigning together with the power of God, Paul tells us later in this letter, ‘God will transform our bodies to be like Christ’s most glorious body’ (3:21). That humanity can attain such heights is proclaimed again in this hymn. The pre-incarnate Son emptied Himself, or came down to become a lowly human, to take on our humanity, eat, sleep, poop, and to die for us. Our Father exalted Him according to His humanity, giving Lordship over all creation to Jesus according to His humanity, because according to His divinity He already had it. Now you and I, joined into the God-man Jesus Christ can be assured that we too will rise with Him, exalted by our Father in our bodies to His glory. This is who you are in Jesus Christ. God has spoken, His word is sure. So now hear again, and truly listen to the Word of God, ‘let the life of Christ be your life.’
And until our full communion comes, the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.