Suffering Servant

Unlike Adam, the Son of God did not attempt to grasp the likeness of God. Instead, he chose the way of the suffering servant of Yahweh.

Church Alone - Photo by L.Filipe C.Sousa on Unsplash
Unlike Adam, the “
Servant of Yahweh” does not attempt to grasp the “likeness of God.” Instead, he humbles himself and submits, even if it means a horrific and shameful death. For this reason, God has highly exalted him and made him “Lord” over all things. Exaltation does not precede his death - it follows it - [Photo by L.Filipe C.Sousa on Unsplash].

His example of self-denial is the pattern that HIS disciples are summoned to emulate. In the relevant passage from the letter to the Philippians, if we focus our efforts on deciphering the mysteries of Christ’s nature, we miss this point.

Rather than explaining his Christology, Paul presents Jesus as the supreme example of how the disciple must conduct himself.

ILOWLINESS OF MIND,” he must count others as “better than himselfnot looking to his own things, but to the things of others,” deferring to the needs of others:
  • (Philippians 2:5-11) - “Be thinking this among you, that even in Christ JesusWho, commencing in form of God, considered being like God something not to be seized, but he poured himself out, taking the form of a slave, having come to be in the likeness of men; and having been found in fashion as man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even death on the cross. Therefore also, God highly exalted him and granted him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of beings heavenly and earthly and under the earth, and every tongue should confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father, even God.

THE SERVANT OF YAHWEH


Paul is contrasting Jesus with Adam by using language from the latter’s fall in the book of Genesis, and the description of the “Servant of Yahweh” in Isaiah.

Unlike Adam, Jesus did not attempt to seize “likeness” with God, choosing instead to humble himself and submit to an unjust death. Adam was created in the image of God but grasped at the divine “likeness.” However, Jesus obeyed God and suffered the consequences.

The Son of God “did not consider being like God something to be seized.” The clause alludes to the story of the “serpent” when he tempted Adam - “For God knows that in the day you eat thereof your eyes will be opened and you will become LIKE GOD, knowing good and evil” - (Genesis 3:5).

The first Adam chose disobedience. The Greek noun rendered “seize” means “plunder, booty” - something that is seized by force. In contrast, the “second Adam,” Jesus, chose NOT to grasp that same “likeness.”

Instead, Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the role of Yahweh’s “servant” by “pouring himself out and taking the form of a slave… he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” And the passage includes several allusions to the “Servant song” recorded in Isaiah. For example:
  • (Isaiah 53:7) - “Hard-pressed, yet HE HUMBLED HIMSELF, nor opened his mouth, as a lamb to the slaughter is led.”
  • (Isaiah 53:12) - “Therefore will I give him a portion in the great, and the strong shall he apportion as plunder BECAUSE HE POURED OUT TO DEATH HIS OWN SOUL, and with transgressors let himself be numbered, Yea, he the sin of many bare, and for transgressors interposed.”
  • (Isaiah 52:13) - “Behold, my Servant prospers, he rises and is lifted up and BECOMES VERY HIGH.”

Thus, Jesus fulfills this messianic role by “pouring out his soul” to death on behalf of others. And HIS disciples are called to adopt that same mindset - to seek nothing from self-interest or for “empty glory.”

TRUE DISCIPLES


HIS disciples imitate him by not seeking to promote themselves, and by submitting in humble obedience to their Father’s will. Believers must conduct themselves in “humility” by serving others, just as God’s messianic “servant” did. To be the Messiah is to serve others, not to lord it over them.

Self-denial does not mean losing your individual identity. Jesus did not lose his individuality but chose to forego his “rights” and privileges for the sake of others.

Like him, HIS disciples are called to defer to the needs of others rather than insist on fulfilling our own. To “become greatest in the kingdom of God” you must first become the servant and “slave of others,” just as Jesus “gave his life a ransom for many.”



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