“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” Philippians 2:5-7
We usually think of the Cross as the sacrifice that Jesus made so that we could be free from the bondage of our sin and all that goes with it. But Christmas is really the place where we see the first sacrifice that Jesus made for us. We don’t find it so much in what the Gospels of Matthew and Luke tell us about that birth, but rather in the words of the Apostle Paul when he wrote to the Philippians.
Think of what Jesus had prior to coming into the world. Paul calls it, “equality with God”. Jesus was one with the Father with all the glory, splendor, power, holiness, and delight that goes with being God. He was on the receiving end of the worship of all creation. He was literally in heaven. But He did not consider for a moment hanging on to all of that. He willingly gave it up for us. He not only gave it up, but exchanged it to be born into the world as a frail, helpless, totally dependent baby, son of an unwed mother, in a backwater village ruled by a army of occupation. He set aside His omnipotence, and omnipresence. He laid aside His splendor and majesty. No longer was he wrapped in glorious, marvelous light, but rather in homespun clothe common to every baby in the land. No longer would He be on the receiving end of the serving of the angels but rather He would be the humble one, taking on the form of a servant for us. He went from living in the palace to serving in the barn.
I don’t think we can even begin to grasp what a sacrifice He made for us 30 years before even going to the cross. But we can get a hint in a rather surprising story. It is in John 11:35 when we are told “Jesus wept”. He was standing at the entrance to the tomb of his friend Lazarus who had died a few days earlier. The people standing around think that Jesus weeps out of grief because his friend had died. I’m not so sure. For starters, Jesus more than anyone would have understood that Lazarus was in heaven and free of pain and sorrow. He would also have known for certain that he would see Lazarus again soon in heaven.
So why the weeping? The clue is found in Luke 16. Of all the parable that Jesus told, with dozens and dozens of characters in them, only one is ever given a name. Usually they are just referred to as, “a certain man”, or “a father”, or “a woman”, or “a Samaritan”. But in Luke 16 Jesus speak of a very poor man who suffered much in life. Jesus gives this poor man the name Lazarus. Lazarus was a sickly man who begged for his living each day and was ignored by “a certain rich man”. Both of them died, the rich man going to Hades and Lazarus going to paradise. I wonder if Jesus didn’t name the poor man in the parable, Lazarus as a way to honor his friend Lazarus who died in John 11.
Why would Jesus honor his friend this way? It is the same reason that he weeps at his friends grave. Jesus knew more than anyone what he was asking Lazarus to give up by being raised from the dead. Jesus knew the splendor and joy that Lazarus was experiencing in heaven at that moment. He knew it because it was his entire experience before being born in that stable. I wonder if Jesus didn’t weep because of the sacrifice he was asking Lazarus to make. The thought of forcing someone to give up the overwhelming joy of being in the very presence of the Father caused Jesus to weep for his friend. He knew what he was asking because he first made that same sacrifice himself. He made it for you and for me.
Blessings to you this Christmas. May the sacrifice Jesus made for you fill you with wonder and thanks and may it cause you to have His same mind, that you consider others more important than yourself and thus honor Him who is the Lord.