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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:The mind of Christ on display at Christmas
Text:Philippians 2:6,7 (View)
Occasion:Advent
Topic:Humility
 
Preached:2012-12-09
Added:2013-01-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs from 1984 Book of Praise
Bible translation:  NKJV


Hymn 20:1,2,3

Psalm 95:2,3

Psalm 100:1,2,3,4

Hymn 19:1,2,3,4

Hymn 20:4,5,6

Read:  John 13:1-17; Philippians 2:1-18

Text:  Philippians 2:6,7

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Dear congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Christmas story may be well known, but that does not mean that it is well understood.  I suspect that almost all of you have seen a picture or a nativity scene of Mary and Joseph in the stable, some shepherds and a few animals close by and Baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. 

But who is this Jesus who was wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger?  What exactly was going on when this little child was born?

I like Christmas carols.  I like the Christmas season.  I think it is appropriate to remember the birth of Christ.  But I am also concerned that the way Christmas is celebrated may sometimes hinder our understanding of the real significance of the birth of Christ.  I am concerned that the miracle of the birth of the Son of God is obscured in thick layers of  tradition, sentimental feelings and myth.

I think that the Nicene Creed does a much better job of helping us understand the meaning of Christmas.  And the reason why I think this, is that before the Nicene Creed speaks of Jesus’ birth, it first describes who our Lord Jesus Christ really is.  This is what the Nicene Creed confesses concerning the Christ:

“And [we believe] in one Lord, Jesus Christ, [who is] the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the father before all ages; God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father; through whom all things were made.

Who, for us men and our salvation, came down from heaven and became incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man.”

And that is a powerful confession concerning the One who was born on Christmas Day.  You see the One who was made man, the One who was lying in that manger, was none other than the eternal Son of God!  The One who Himself is true God, the One through whom the starry hosts of the heavens were made, this One became a man, this One experienced a natural birth by being born through his mother Mary.  And this One made Himself of no reputation and He became a servant. 

And He did that for us!  

And so as we reflect on the miracle of Christmas this afternoon, I want you to think about who our Lord Jesus really is.  I want you to be astonished and I want you to be humbled that He who is in very nature God would take on the flesh and blood of his mother Mary for us and for our salvation.  And so I preach to you the Word of the Lord under the following heading:

The mind of Christ on display at Christmas.

1.    Be astonished!

2.    Be humbled!

1. Be astonished!

It would have been an amazing experience to have been one of Jesus Christ’s disciples.  It would also have been extremely challenging.  For who was this Jesus?  What was He like?  It seemed as though whenever they had worked Him out that our Lord would do or say something that threw them into confusion once more. 

That is what happened in John chapter 13.  In John 13, a short time before our Lord Jesus was crucified on the cross, Jesus and His disciples sat down to eat.  They had travelled that day from the town of Bethany and their feet were dirty.  Now to have dirty feet from travelling through the heat and the dust was normal, and so it was the custom to have somebody wash your feet before sitting down to eat.  The host himself would not do this but would give the task to one of his servants.  For in washing a person’s feet you would be honouring him and declaring him to be great and yourself to be no better than his slave.  This is what was behind what John the Baptist had said concerning Jesus in John 1:27 when he said,

“It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”

In other words, John the Baptist said that the coming Christ was so high, so exalted, that he was not even worthy to be His servant and do the lowest, most menial task of washing His feet.

But now this same Jesus was in a room with His disciples.  Their feet needed to be washed, but there was no servant.  You can imagine the uncomfortable silence, the side-ways looks.  From Luke 22 we learn that just before this the disciples had been arguing about who was the greatest.  In fact, it appears as though the disciples had had this discussion more often!  But now here they were: sitting down for a meal with dirty feet.  The pitcher filled  with water stood there, along with a wash basin and a towel.  But who would wash their feet?  Perhaps the disciples had hoped that a servant was close by, that he would enter the room and wash the feet of each one of them in turn.  But there was no servant.  And yet no one moved.  The disciples took their places at the table.  The food was placed before them and they had sat down to eat.  But not one of them made a move towards the water, the wash basin and the towel.  Each disciple looked at the other with the unspoken question of who was prepared to back down, who would take the water and, at the very least, wash the feet of their Teacher and Lord, Jesus Christ.  But still no one moved!

And then Jesus stood up.  He got up from the table, lay aside his garments so that He was likely wearing nothing more than a loin cloth, like a slave, and he tied the towel around His waist.  And then He took the water and poured it into the basin.  And then He went to the disciple sitting closest to Him, knelt down, took the disciple’s feet in His hands.  He washed them and then dried them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.  And so He moved from one disciple to the next, taking on the form of a bondservant (to use the words of Philippians 2:7), washing their feet.  And so He continued to wash their feet, until He came to Simon Peter who by now had become so uncomfortable with what he thought was so terribly wrong that he said in horror,

“Lord, are You washing my feet?”

And,

“You shall never wash my feet!”

And the more we think about it, the more we too are shocked that Jesus was doing this!  For the One who had stooped down to wash the dusty feet of these 12 men was none other than the Son of God!  And in his gospel, John wants you to realise this.  That is why He wrote in John 13:3,4 that

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.”

He was not just another Rabbi.  He was not just the first among equals.  Yes, He was a Man, a true man, but He was not just a man.  Rather, He had come from God and He was going to God!  For He Himself was God! 

And in his gospel, John wants you to be clear about this, he wants you to know who this Jesus is who was on His knees before His disciples, washing their grimy feet. 

He was the One who Himself was God.  John 1:1

“And the Word [that is Jesus] was with God, and the Word was God.”

He was the One through whom the heavens and the earth was made.  John 1:3

 “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”

And He was the One who was not only worthy of all glory but who, before He had come down to earth was receiving this glory. 

John 12:41.

“These things Isaiah said when he saw His [that is Jesus’] glory and spoke of Him.”

And so when we read of Jesus girded with a towel around His waist and washing the feet of His disciples, we are not just to think of Him there in that room, but also of where He had come from!  You see, Jesus is not like you and me.  We did not exist before we were conceived and born, but Jesus did!  He was, as the Nicene Creed puts it, “begotten of the Father before all ages”.  And He was “God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God.”

And so not only did He simply exist in heaven, but before He came down from heaven, He was glorified in heaven.  And the glory that He received was the same as the glory given to the Father.  When John 12:41 speaks about Isaiah seeing Christ’s glory, he was clearly referring to the glory of God that he described in Isaiah 6.  And in chapter 6, Isaiah describes the heavenly throne room of God.  He saw

“… the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said:

            “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;

            The whole earth is full of His glory!”

And the Son of God, being equal with the Father in all things, shared in that glory that the angels were giving.

And now here He is, in John 13, stooping down and washing the feet of His proud disciples! 

And in this we see something of the mind of Christ.   This is what Philippians 2:6 refers to when it says,

“Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.”

Or to use the New International Version (which in this case I think is not only clearer but also more accurately expresses the meaning of Philippians 2:6),

“Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.”

When our text says that He was in the form of God, it means that He was God in His very nature!  He was equal in every way with The Father and the Spirit and shared in their glory.  But when He entered this world, (and now I’m quoting from Philippians 2:7)

“He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.”

And it is when you begin to understand not just Who He is but also where He came from that you will be astonished at the sight of the little baby Jesus lying in a manger and of all that He did after that.  You will be astonished at what it means that He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but that He willingly humbled Himself and was made man.  He was still God.  He was still Immanuel, God with Us.  But He had become a man and as a Man, the eternal Son of God, the One through whom all things were made, the One who was worthy of all glory, laud and honour, this One had humbled Himself to be a servant for lost sinners like you and me!

And that is what I would like you to think about this Christmas season.  I want you to ask just who this Jesus is who was laid in a manger, where He had come from, what He had come to do, and how He was going to do it.  I want you to see and to be astonished at how God the Son, the One through whom the Universe was made, was made man.  I want you to understand something of the mind of Christ, of His determination to humble Himself by taking upon himself the true flesh and blood of His mother Mary and humbled Himself completely, to the very end.  Who humbled Himself so much, Philippians 2:8 says, that He became obedient to the point of death, even to death on the cross. 

This Jesus, the eternal Son of God, left the glorious realm of heaven and entered this world in order that He might be rejected!  Rejected by the world, scorned by the devil and forsaken by God the Father.  Hung on a cross to die.  That is what He left heaven and entered this world to do!  And the astonishing fact is that He did this for you!  He emptied Himself, He humbled Himself, He was born into the world, was laid in a manger and was ultimately despised and rejected for you! 

And that is what is so amazing about the grace of God in Jesus Christ!  Who can measure that gap between the heavenly throne room of God and the manger in that stable outside of Bethlehem?  Who can comprehend the mind of Christ that He should be willing to be born as a man with the intention to die on a cross? Who can fathom the depth of the love of God, the love of Jesus Christ, for sinners such as you and me?

2. Be humbled!

There was a message in Christ the Lord washing the feet of His disciples.  John 13:12-15.

So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.

A recurring message throughout the gospels is that if you want to be great in God’s kingdom you need to learn to be the servant of all.  If you want to follow Jesus, you need to do as Jesus did, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him.

And that is the message also of Philippians 2. Philippians 2:5 says,

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”

Let this mind be in you.  That is, have the same attitude as that of Jesus Christ.  That means, humble yourself. 

And that is hard!  The thing that stops so many people from truly confessing Jesus as their Lord and Saviour is pride.  By nature man is so proud, so puffed up.  And it is pride that makes one think that he can save himself, that He does not need Christ to be the Suffering Servant on his behalf, that He does not need a Saviour who hung on a cross.

In Matthew 18 the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  To which Jesus responded by saying,

“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 18:1,2) 

You see, that is why our Lord repeatedly called His disciples to follow His example and humble themselves, to wash one another’s feet, to consider themselves least in the Kingdom of heaven.  Because it is only by emptying yourself, by confessing that are nothing before God that you may receive the salvation that Christ had come to bring.

And therefore “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”

Let this mind be in you.  That is, have the same attitude, the attitude that causes you to set aside your pride, to deny yourself, and to find your life in Jesus Christ.  There is no place for pride, no place for arrogance, no place to say “Here I am:  Look at me!”  For it is in Jesus Christ and in Him alone that we are accepted by the Father.

For although He humbled Himself to death on a cross, He did not remain in that humbled state but, as Philippians 2:9-11 says, God has now highly exalted Him and given Him a name above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow.  And so God now calls each one of you to receive Him as Christ and Lord.  As it says in Romans 10:9.

“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

It is in Jesus Christ,  God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, it is in this Jesus who humbled Himself to reconcile sinners to God, that we now live and move and have our being.  And so, with the same mind, the same attitude as Jesus Christ, let us now humble ourselves before Him and before one another.  And let us joyfully and willingly join all those in heaven and on earth and under the earth confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2012, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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