JESUS BECAME OBEDIENT UNTO DEATH, EVEN DEATH ON A CROSS
(A biblical reflection on PASSION SUNDAY [YEAR A], 5 April 2020)
Second Reading: Philippians 2:6-11
First Reading: Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalms: Psalm 22:8-9,17-20,23-24; Gospel Reading: Matthew 26:14-27:66 (Matthew 27:11-54)
The Scripture Text
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. (Philippians 2:6-11 RSV)
As Christians we have no doubt as to the two natures of our Savior. He was the God-man. He humbled Himself so low in order to represent us before His Father and by His perfect obedience (“even death on a cross”) earn for us not only God’s forgiveness but a sharing in the divinity, through His being our brother but also the Son of God. These words of Paul, or rather of the early Christian hymn he is quoting, are for us today a consolation and an encouragement.
Surely every sincere Christian must be consoled by the thought of God’s infinite love for her/him, as shown in the Incarnation. We are not dealing with some distant, cold, legalistic God of justice who spends His time marking up our sins and failures against us. We are dealing with a loving Father who sent His own beloved Son to live among us and die for us in order to bring home to us the greatness of divine love. Could any human mind, even the minds of the greatest of this world’s philosophers, have invented such a humanly incredible story of true love? No, it was only in the infinite mind of God that such a proof of love could have its source.
What encouragement this should and does give to every sincere Christian. We know we are weak. We can and do sin often. We know we are mean and ungrateful and that we seldom stop to thank God for the love He has shown us. If we were dealing with a human, narrow-visioned God, we should have reason to despair, but when our Judge is the all-loving, all-merciful God how can even the worst sinner ever lose hope?
No, there is no place for despair in the Christian faith. But there is room for gratitude and confidence. We can never thank God sufficiently for all that He has done for us. Eternity itself will not be long enough for this, but we must do the little we can. Let us face this coming Holy Week with hearts full of thanks to God and to His divine Son for all they have done for us. When meditating on the passion of Christ on Good Friday let us look with gratitude and confidence on the Son of God who died on the cross in order to earn eternal life for us.
He did not die to lose us but to save us. He has done ninety percent of the work of our salvation. And, even as regards the remaining ten percent that He asks us to do, He is with us helping us to do it. Could we be so mean and so foolish as to refuse the little He asks of us?
For Personal Reflection: Jesus accepted the title of Messiah, but He has His own idea of what the Messiah would be. A political/military leader usually traveled on a horse, an animal used in battle because of its speed and power, but Jesus chose to ride into the city on a donkey, a beast of burden and sign of humility. In this way, Jesus indicated He was not going to be the expected triumphant military Messiah but a HUMBLE SERVANT of God who would conquer sin and death by dying on the cross.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, open to us the mystery of Your cross. Help us to empty ourselves, trusting that one day we will be lifted up with You to share in Your unending glory. Amen.
Jakarta, 4 April 2020
A Christian Pilgrim