Palm Sunday 2011: Philippians 2

by admin on April 20, 2011

Reflection for Palm Sunday, 17 April 2011
Philippians 2:5-11

Pretty much now it’s an every day occurrence. Every day there is some sort of parade in the Middle East. Military parade rushing arms to the front; demonstrators parading in the capital’s main square, a funeral procession parading its way through the street of Kabul, Bagdad, Beirut, Tripoli.

Today I’d like for us to consider another Middle East parade. One, however, that’s made all the difference in that world, and ours. Jesus’ Palm Sunday parade.

Focus text: Philippians 2.
Most profound New Testament theology—where it all began. This is reflection on incarnation, death, exaltation—atonement.

Jesus incarnation is the ultimate paradigm, pattern, model for humility and obedience requested in Philippians vv3, 12
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.
12 work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

Jesus exultation is the basis for vindication and reward that awaits.
3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.

Between these two movements: incarnation and exultation lies the emptying out—kenosis—becoming a slave, the lowest of the lowly, below the bottom rung in society. This lowest one has now become the highest—Lord. And in him alone is the capacity for salvation. NB. “Lord” is Caesar’s title and he was in charge of salvation. It was against the rules but Jesus is God’s replacement for that.

This is worth memorizing: core understanding of being Christian, disciple of Jesus. “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.” Furthermore, think of this whole movement as something that’s against the rules by which our worlds are organized and lived out. Only then can you get hold of the radical nature of Jesus life and message, and the radical adventure that is known as “following him.”

1. On his way down from heaven Christ broke the rules of divine decorum. Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped. [Message version]
He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. 7 Not at all.

• Gods don’t do this. Become men, much less slaves.
• Mingling with outcasts
• Touching and challenging people with the god-life.
• He entered the messiness of human life.

2. On his way down to Hades he broke the law of death.
He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. [Message version]
8 Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.

• Death: the great common denominator
• The ultimate blockade
• The line between being and nothing
• It conditions us all with futility, anxiety, restlessness, and hopelessness.

3. On his way up to heaven he broke open the gate that separates this changing world from the eternal world.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and gave him the name above all names. [Message version]
9 Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, 10 so that all created beings in heaven and on earth – even those long ago dead and buried – will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ.

• We believe in materialism: this is it, stock up…there is another realty in our lives.
• My experience = reality.
• Jesus experience = Kingdom of God today.

Today we come to the Great and Holy Week of the Christian faith. It’s about another parade in the Middle East. A parade that breaks all the rules of human living.

This is why this passage in the NT is worth memorizing—it is nothing less than the abolition of religion.

Religions are based on negative attitudes toward the world—you either escape it or take it over. Last week’s NYT—voodoo in Brooklyn via Haiti.

Religions are based on negative attitudes toward the human body—hence the cult of perpetual youth.

Religions are based on negative attitudes toward life itself—that’s what the gospel according to Ann Rand says.

And religion is governed by rules, contingencies and a reality that becomes the accepted order of things.

But in JC we encounter not religion, but reality. A reality beyond all the contingencies of time, place and history.

When St. Paul speaks of Christ’s obedience unto death, even death on a cross, he is saying that all the powers and forces that determine human life, determined Jesus’ life. NT: powers, principalities, thrones, dominions.

The fully human JC was under these influences. He died—and was raised.

The fully redemptive Christ triumphed over these powers and frees everyone whose life is stuck.

This is what Palm Sunday is about, and its so-called “triumphal entry.” JC triumphs.

During the Lenten season there is usually some talk with a doctor who is examining the crucifixion. We seemed to be enamored with technique, fact, historical proof. But always missing in the inquiry is the cross’ transforming significance.

Will you and I be better people because we know that Jesus died nailed to a cross with nine-inch nails? Does forgiveness, compassion, humility, generosity and hope work in us when we know facts, or when we think differently? “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus did.”

No, the proper posture for today and the rest of this week, isn’t sorrow, it is awe; it is worship; it is adoration.

It is not about more information, but about transformation. Jesus Christ defines God—God is for us, for the world; and now God is brought out into the open for all to see and know.

NT Wright: this is nothing short of a new understanding of God. Calvary reveals the truth about what it means to be God.

And that truth breaks all the rules:

• God is for us.
• Death has no dominion.
• Eternity begins now—so we can live it now.

If you’re sick of being in the wrong parade, or standing on the sidelines just watching; then today is your day. Your day to make a move and say Yes to JC and join in his Middle East parade.

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