Sermon Bonus – Encountering the Cross

 

On Sunday, we talked about approaching Holy Week.  To do that, we have to step away from the Hosannas of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and we must pause before we look and find the tomb empty.  The journey of lent must always take us first to the foot of the cross.

To hear the passion narrative in a new light, we looked at Paul’s great statement on Jesus in Philippians 2:6-11.  There were a couple of notes about this passage that we weren’t able to get to in the brief sermon, so I thought I would share them here.

First, there is some disagreement among scholars on exactly what this passage is.  Some speculate that it represents an early creed or hymn that would have been known and spoken or sung among the early church.  Others think that it is simply a poetic passage that Paul composed especially for this letter.

Regardless, there is no doubt that this passage represents an intentionally structured statement about who Jesus is and why he came.  But even within that structure, with its careful paradox and parallelism, there is a strange line seemingly inserted directly in the middle.  Paul explains that “Jesus became obedient to death.”  However, Paul doesn’t stop there; directly after, he adds, “even death on a cross.”  This insertion wouldn’t have been flowery language to his Philippian audience—they had witnessed firsthand the total humiliation and destruction that was crucifixion.

In the sermon, I focused on the word confess in verse 11, that every tongue would confess the lordship of Jesus.  Some scholars suggest, though, that this word “Lord” is more than just the common greek term for a master.  Instead, they speculate that this is a reference to God’s self-given name, Yahweh, translated as LORD in the Old Testament.

What I find interesting about this reading is that it reminds us of the first and most essential truth in this passage:  that Jesus is the very form of God, his precise image.  God’s name is bestowed upon Jesus, revealing to everyone this impossible truth that our God—creator of everything—suffered and died.

As you enter into Holy Week, remember that the glory of Christ is found through his humiliation and death.  If we are his disciples, we must follow this path of self-emptying, loving others sacrificially.