Settle yourself into prayer and get ready to reflect on the Word of
And being found in human form, he humbled himself and
became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that
is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue
should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Sometimes I imagine I am a fly on the wall in that little home in Nazareth, listening in on table talk between Mary, Joseph, and Jesus! Between bites of figs, salted fish, and barley cake they are talking about God, His Kingdom, and the Romans I hear them voice their trust in the Lord and how one day He will raise up the humble! I imagine that a key theme in their relaxed conversation is humility. I even hear Mary singing about it in the song she wrote after Gabriel’s visit:
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:51-53).
The humility and quiet confidence that God will act on His people’s behalf becomes a repeated theme in Jesus’ preaching about God’s Kingdom:
For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29).
I also imagine Jesus’ little brother, James, joining in on the conversation. This same James grew up to become a leader in the Jerusalem church and to write in his letter about humility: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10).
Scripture’s repeated promise that God exalts the humble is taken up by Paul in today’s scripture. He points to the humble Christ and how God “highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name.” Having humbled Himself to the depths, God literally “super-exalted” (hyperypsosen) Christ to heaven’s highest place, and gave Him the name above every name.
The Father’s exaltation of Jesus is a significant change in the action. Up to this point in the Christ Hymn it has been Jesus who was the subject of the action. It was Jesus not clinging to equality with God; it was Jesus emptying Himself, taking the form of a slave and humbling Himself. But now the action switches to God the Father; Jesus will not not exalt Himself! It is God who exalts Jesus to the place of universal worship! God exalting the humble Jesus reveals that God is also humble. This is who God is! This is His identity! Andrew Murray wrote lovingly about the humility of God:
What is the incarnation but His heavenly humility, His emptying Himself and becoming man? What is His life on earth but humility; His taking the form of a servant?…And what is His ascension and His glory, but humility exalted to the throne and crowned with glory?… In heaven, where He was with the Father, in His birth, in His life, in His death, in His sitting on the throne, it is all, it is nothing but humility.” (The Wisdom of Andrew Murray)
God exalting Jesus is not promoting Him to deity, but confirming that He has always been God and acting as God always acts. Karl Barth said it well: “As the Son of God He did not need to be exalted. In fact, He could not be exalted… But He was never greater as Lord than in this depth of His servanthood.” (Church Dogmatics, IV/2) In this God reveals the moral arc of the universe: God lifts up the humble. God’s exaltation of the humble Jesus exposes the lie and madness of living only for self. The incarnate, humble God undermines the self-absorbed culture of Paul’s readers and ours. The more we grasp the humble love revealed in Christ Jesus, the more we want to live for others. And the more we give ourselves to others the more we discover what life is all about.
- Take a few moments to imagine Mary, Joseph, and Jesus conversing about humility? What do you imagine them saying?
- How do you sense the Spirit of God calling you to act humbly? Talk to God about it.
“He is elevated and exalted as the man of the divine good pleasure,
then obviously this exaltation of His is not only His, but also that
of those for whom He humbled Himself.”
Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV/2