Philippians 2:5-8. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
“What were you thinking?”
Have you ever asked someone this, or been asked this yourself? Usually we ask this after an act of selfishness. The brother hits his sister with a toy – what were you thinking?! The teen steals the car for the night – what were you thinking?! The friend spreads gossip – what were you thinking?! And the answer that is often given is “I don’t know.”
Philippians 2 asks “what were you thinking” of Christ himself. Not after an act of great selfishness, but after the greatest act of selfless humility and love ever conceived. What was Jesus thinking when he left Heaven for Earth? What was he thinking when he took on flesh as a human? What was he thinking when he became a slave to humanity? What was he thinking when he became the sacrifice for us?
Now we know.
He was thinking of everyone but himself. He was thinking of God. He was thinking of you and me.
He was thinking that although he is in the form of God, possessing all the attributes of God, performing all the divine acts of God, and existing eternally as God, he did not need to take advantage of his equality with God for his own gain. It wasn’t something to be grasped, or held on to by a power play. Jesus never had to fight for his divinity, or struggle to keep it. The nature of God was willingly and lovingly shared with him in the Trinity from before all time and for all time. And Jesus knew this.
He was also thinking that in order to rescue humanity he would have to empty himself. But what does this mean? How did Jesus empty himself?
This does not mean that Jesus emptied himself of his divine nature. He did not cease to be God while on Earth. Jesus emptying himself is not the giving up of his divinity, quite the opposite, it is the expression of his divinity. Jesus showed us that there is nothing more divine than to empty out your life for others. There is nothing more godly than to pour out all your heart, soul, and strength in sacrificial love. That is what Jesus did for you and me.
And he was thinking that the fullness of deity would require the full humility of the cross. No half-hearted effort would suffice. No partial credit given. Jesus knew he would have to go as low as a human could go.
Emptied to humanity – lower still.
Emptied to slavery – lower still.
Emptied to dying – lower still.
Emptied to the cross.
The lowest of low. To die on a cross was to be less than human. Humiliated. Dishonored. Mocked. Abused. Tortured. Defiled. Destroyed. Those who were crucified were removed from all historic records, even family records. They never existed. They were animals. They were nothing. Buried in a pit. Forgotten forever.
But there’s still one more level of lowliness for Jesus. One more part to pour out for us – his own righteousness. The mystery of the cross is that Jesus became sin for us. He lost not only his dignity, and human honor, he lost the very presence of God. He was forsaken. He was condemned. He was cursed. All so that we might be blessed in him. All so that he might be able to say “It is finished.”
This is what Jesus was thinking: I know who I am. I know the fullness of God in me. I know that to honor God and to love humanity I must give myself over completely to this redemption plan. And I know I can survive this unimaginable evil and shame because I am loved and will be vindicated and honored by God one day.
And this is the mind of Christ that we too must share – Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.
Christ’s emptying is our pattern for life. His humility becomes our humility. His emptying becomes our emptying. His lowliness becomes our lowliness. His submission becomes our submission. His obedience becomes our obedience. His once for all cross becomes our daily cross. His mind becomes our mind.
How do we do it? What must we be thinking?
There’s a word play in Philippians 2. Paul says in verse three, “do nothing from conceit” or from emptiness. But then he says have the mind of Christ who emptied himself (same word). You see you can only empty yourself when you’re NOT empty. Only full people can be emptied out. And full is what we are in Christ (2:1).
“To live is Christ” is to experience the fullness of God in Christ, the fullness freely given to us by Christ’s own emptying, so that then we can, like Jesus, empty our lives out in humility and grace for the glory of God and the good of others.
Would you say that you share the mind of Christ?
You in Christ
Are you embracing your fullness in Christ?
Christ in you
Where do you need to empty your life out for others today?
Playlist: Christ’s mind, your mind.