Day 3: Servant King

Read: Philippians 2:1–11

One Christmas, when I was probably fourteen, my family had a close friend who was a Chinese international student. When we learned she’d never experienced an American family Christmas and she had no plans, we invited her to stay the night with us on Christmas eve. We knew she had been studying to play the accordion, but we didn’t expect her to actually bring her accordion when she showed up at the house. All evening she played for us. Now, I’m not an accordion guy, but she wasn’t playing polka or folk-tunes, she was playing Bach and Handel. Somehow she had managed to boil down whole orchestra pieces into a song for one instrument, and it sounded amazing! God is like a symphony, filled with complicated meter, overlapping melodies, and hundreds of instruments. Jesus is like the accordion piece for that symphony, narrowing all that magnificence and intricacy into one narrow spot which somehow contains the whole symphony. 

In today’s passage, Christians are being taught to esteem others more than themselves, and the reasoning goes: because God loves that way. In a way, it kind of feels contradictory to God’s character to say that God Almighty, the one who glorifies Himself in everything (Is. 48:9–11) esteems others above Himself. But elsewhere we’re told that Jesus is the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), and Jesus Himself says in John 5:19 that He only does what He sees the Father doing. If Jesus shows us the qualities of God which we could not see or understand otherwise, what does He teach us about the character of God?

Jesus’ perspective is vastly different from the way people normally see life. He’s at peace when it doesn’t make sense to be, He ignores cultural customs in order to help people, He washes His disciples’ feet, and He dies for His followers. In every way He practices what He preaches, humbling Himself to unimaginable low points in order to save people. 

Does this mean that God, by His nature, is just the servant of mankind? No. Listen to the text. “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped [exploited], but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:6–7). Jesus came in the form of a servant—out of His love for mankind, laying down unimaginable power and status to rescue us. Jesus came as King, but not as a dominating ruler like the Romans of His time. He came as the Servant King, humble and obedient, even to the point of death (v. 8), illustrating to us how to live as human beings under His good rule, in the law of love (Rom. 13:10).

If God is the symphony, and Jesus is the single instrument piece, we are meant to harmonize with both through our lives. It’s a mind boggling topic, but it is the good news! We don’t have to blunder through life in the dark, we have a Light in the life of Jesus. He is the greatest in the Kingdom—Himself being the King, but Jesus also tells us the greatest in the Kingdom are those who submit themselves as servants (Matt. 18:4).

So, as the reasoning of Philippians 2:1–11 goes, do as Jesus did. Love others above and beyond what they deserve. Humble yourself without fear of injuring your pride, because you don’t answer to pride anymore. Ask yourself, ‘are there places in my life where I have allowed the tit-for-tat, ordinary standard of human life to rule over the upside-down and humble way of Christ?’ How can you love someone who doesn’t deserve your love this week, with your time or your resources? Give freely, because we have a bottomless source of love.  

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