JESUS’ AWESOME HUMBLE OBEDIENCE
(A biblical refection on PALM (PASSION) SUNDAY [YEAR A], April 17, 2011)
Second Reading: Phil 2:6-11
First Reading: Is 50:4-7; Psalms: Ps 22:8-9,17-20,23-24; Gospel Reading: Mt 26:14-27:66 (Mt 27:11-54)
Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:6-11 RSV)
Among all the sights, sounds, and smells of our liturgies during the Holy Week, one image will overshadow all the others: Jesus Christ crucified. Today and all the week, as we recall the events of Jesus’ Passion and death, God is inviting us to do more than simply remember past events. He invites us to join Jesus on the road toCalvaryand peer into His heart at each step along the way. As we do this, let us allow Paul’s hymn about the humility of Christ to guide us.
Though He was in the form of God, [Jesus] … emptied Himself (Phil 2:6-7). What could be a greater self-emptying (Greek: kenosis) than for the perfect Son of God to submit to the judgment of sinful men and women? What greater humility could there be than allowing your own creation to put you to death? Imagine Jesus standing before the Sanhedrin and before Pilate, humbly submitting to their judgment and their mockery. He formed each of them and gave them precious gifts they were to use to glorify His Father. And here, these gifts are used instead to beat Him, ridicule Him, and put Him to death.
He was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:8). Imagine the pain of the cross – not just the physical pain, but the emotional and spiritual pain. Jesus was abandoned by everyone. Even heaven seemed closed off. No matter where He looked, there was no comfort to be found, no assurance that the torment of His body was doing anyone any good. Yet He was convinced that God had led Him to the cross, and so He submitted to it, trusting in His Father with every labored breath He took.
Yes, Jesus spent His entire time on earth living in humble obedience. He obeyed His parents (see Lk 2:51). He obeyed God’s call to public ministry (see Mt 3:14-15). He was obedient to God in times of trial and temptation (Jn 12:27-28). He spent time with His Father in prayer so that He might know and obey the Father’s will (see Lk 6:12-13). Obedience, however, was not always easy for Jesus – just think about His struggle in theGarden ofGethsemane. But Jesus constantly relied on the power of the Holy Spirit and so won the victory of obedience, i.e. His resurrection into glory!
Finally, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name (Phil 2:9). Jesus is glorified because He emptied Himself and accepted death. As a matter of fact, the summary of all the readings for today – and of the whole Gospel – is this: Obedience to God always brings about exaltation. Jesus passed through death to new life because of His obedience, and He has paved a way for all of us to experience the same death-to-life transformation. Therefore, as we meditate on the death and resurrection of Jesus in this Holy Week, let us especially focus on the glorious victory that Jesus won for us by His reverent submission to God.
As you imagine all of heaven bowing before Him, picture the awe on the faces of the angels. They are looking at His now glorified wounds and wondering over the love that moved Him to accept death for our sake. Now fully God and fully man, bearing the marks of the cross, Jesus allowed Himself to be forever changed …… simply because He loves us all. Let us now allow the promise of the Gospel to move us to imitate Jesus’ life of obedience. Of course it will entail suffering at times, but it will also bring deeper intimacy with Jesus and greater freedom and joy. Let us also be confident that every time we obediently die to self, our heavenly Father will bring us to new life.
Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am in awe over Your humble obedience and Your love for me. This week, as I walk with You may I encounter You as never before. By Your Holy Spirit, let me fall in love with You all over again. Amen.
Jakarta, April 14, 2011
A Christian Pilgrim