Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 22:39-46
I want to visit two places in Scripture this evening for reasons I believe will be clear once we read them together. The first passage is most likely an early church hymn that Paul inserted in his letter to the Philippians as an illustration of what humility in its most ultimate and purest form looks like. Some know it as the Carmen Christi or more commonly understood as the “Hymn to Christ as God” which is found in Philippians 2:5-11.
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 emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so 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 2:5–11)
Against the backdrop of what we read in Philippians, I want to read Luke 22:39-46 so that we can consider the glory of the cross and the significance of Good Friday.
And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:39–46)
In his book, The Cross He Bore, the late Frederick Leahy wrote of Christ’s experience in Gethsemane: “The account of Christ’s sorrows in Gethsemane is to be read with wonder and awe, not to be dissected or psychoanalyzed – nor indeed can it be. In Gethsemane there was… ‘something transacted that brings us completely out of our depth, yet something that has such a distinct bearing on our redemption that we dare not pass it by.’” It is my hope tonight, that as we reflect upon Good Friday, that the determination of Jesus as the God-Man to set his face to the cross will fill you with wonder and awe.
Philippians 2:5-11 is considered to be one of the strongest statements on the deity of Jesus Christ in the Bible. Books, theological dissertations, papers, and many a sermon have been dedicated to this section of holy scripture for generations and more will be dedicated to this passage for generations to come. For purposes of time, I will not plumb the depths of this amazing passage, but I will try to do enough with this passage so that your heart might soar over what happened in Gethsemane.
Jesus Humbled Himself
The purpose of Paul’s letter to the Philippians was to thank a group of Christians for their generosity. The place that Paul wrote his letter was either as one under house arrest or in a prison with a prospect that he may likely die as a prisoner, while remaining hopeful he would be set free: “…it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:20-21). We are not sure if Philippians was one of the last letters Paul wrote or if he was eventually released, but you would not know that his circumstances were dire due to the overwhelming theme of joy throughout his letter.
In continuing with the theme of joy, Paul uses the example of Christ’s incarnation and life on earth as an example of the kind of humility the Christians in Philippi ought to have. He begins by encouraging these Christians: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4). What does such humility look like? It looks like the kind of humility Jesus demonstrated through the incarnation (vv. 5-8).
“Have this mind among yourselves…”. What mind are we to have? That of the mind of 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, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” What does Paul mean by, “the form of God”? What he means is that Jesus by nature, existed as equal as God, because he was God. This is made explicitly clear by what is stated next: Jesus, as equal to God the Father, “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped”.
There are two words I want us to focus our attention on in verses 6 and 7, those words are “grasped” and “emptied.” The word for “grasped” is the Greek word harpagmos, which can also be translated, “seized.” What was it that Jesus did not seize? He did not seize his equality with God as the Son to his own advantage, but instead emptied“himself, by taking the form of a servant…”. In other words, he could have chosen a different way that did not involve the type of humility required of God to become a servant by, “being born in the likeness of men.”
The second word I want you to focus on is the word “emptied” in verse 7. Jesus, as the God-Man and second person of the Trinity, took on the form of a doulos (servant, slave). How did he do this? He became a man. Does this mean that Jesus was any less God by taking on the form of a servant? The Greek word for “empty” (kenoō) can be translated “empty” or “void” so what was it that Jesus emptied himself of? The word for “empty” is used five times in the New Testament and four of the five times it is used in a metaphorical sense, one such place that it is used in this way is in 1 Corinthians 1:17 where Paul writes, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” Of course, Paul did not mean that words of eloquent wisdom had the power to empty the Cross of Christ (the gospel), or of its ability to save sinners. Regardless of what people say and how they say it, the power of the Cross remains.
When Christ emptied himself, he did not empty out any part of his deity as God, for him to do so would mean that he was not and is not God. This is why the NIV translates this verse, “rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:7, NIV). B.B. Warfield said of the incarnation, “There is no half-way house between the doctrine that Christ is both God and man and that Christ is merely man.” Another person said, “A Jesus who is just less than God is like a bridge broken at the farther end. Such a Jesus could not deliver from Satan and sin, and such a Jesus the Bible does not present.” By taking the form of a slave, Jesus emptied himself in this sense: That by becoming a man, he refused to hold onto his divine rights and prerogatives while on earth from birth to the cross. The humbling of Christ involved the wedding of his divine nature as God with his human nature as man, as one person forever, and he did this for the purpose of the cross. As one theologian said, “For Christ to be our Saviour there was no other way than the way of the cross. God’s righteousness demanded it, our sin required it, and Satan feared it.”
Jesus Gave Himself
Now, with Philippians 2:5-8 as the backdrop, we can briefly turn our attention to Gethsemane. Now that you know what it is that Jesus did not “seize” onto and what it means for him to have “emptied” himself, let’s look into Gethsemane, which literally means “The Olive Press,” with fresh eyes:
And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:41–46)
What happened in this Garden with our Savior? What happened was the Divine Son was about to surrender himself as the Lamb of God to be slaughtered for the redemption of sinful creatures… at the hands of his creatures for the purpose of experiencing the wrath of God upon a cross. What Jesus is sweating great drops of blood while under extreme duress for was that he, as the Son, was about to be given just as he explained to Nicodemus in John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16–17). On this point, Gordon Fee reflected: “Here is where the one who was ‘equal with God’ has most fully revealed the truth about God: that God is love and that his love expresses itself in self-sacrifice –cruel, humiliating death on a cross – for the sake of those he loves. The divine weakness (death at the hands of his creatures, his enemies) is the divine scandal (the cross was reserved for slaves and insurrectionists).”
When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” do not think that there is a conflict of wills, for if there was, Jesus would not have entered Gethsemane by his own volition. The Lamb of God entered willingly and obediently. His request that if there was another way, that the cup be removed from him was not incompatible with the Father’s will that the Son drink it. It was the contents of the metaphorical cup that brought terror. What cup was it that Jesus was staring into while in the Garden? We read of the cup in Isaiah 51:17, “Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering.” What was the response of Jesus as he contemplated his role in drinking the fruit of our sin and disobedience? A will to obey: “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, wrote: “For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men” (Romans 5:17–18). The one man’s trespass was the sin committed by the first Adam in the garden of Eden. Jesus, as the second and better Adam, entered another garden and out of an act of obedience, declared: “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Do not miss the irony here! Again, Gordon Fee said of Adam’s sin in light of Philippians 2:5-8, “Adam, who being in God’s image, considered his “equality with God” as something to be seized. Christ, as God, became a servant by being born in the likeness of men.” After Adam sinned, he hid from God, and it was God who asked Adam, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). However, Jesus, as the second Adam, entered the garden to be seen by the Father, and by his presence declared to the Father: “Here I Am.”
The first Adam was called to manage the Garden, while the second Adam created the garden. The first Adam was given the responsibility to maintain he garden, while the second Adam is the One who sustains the garden (Col. 1:15-16). The first Adam wanted to seize what he thought to be an opportunity to be like God out of arrogant pride, while the second Adam, as God, humbled himself by becoming a man. The first Adam was guilty for bringing the curse upon the world, while the second Adam took upon himself the curse of sin on a cross (Gal. 3:13). In so doing, Jesus, “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8).
As result of his death on a cross, Paul concludes: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so 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” (vv. 9-11). Jesus entered the world as a slave to die for sinners, on the third day he was vindicated as Lord. It was not something awarded to him, but a title that he set aside until the work of the cross was complete. What was given back to him was the right that belongs only to Yahweh, just as the prophet Isaiah proclaimed hundreds of years before the Cross of Christ:
“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’” (Isaiah 45:22–23)
 Frederick S. Leahy. The Cross He Bore (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust; 2011); p. 7.
 Ibid, p. 16.
 Ibid, p. 10.
 Gordon D. Fee. INICNT: Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company; 1995), p. 217.
 Ibid, p. 209.