He made Himself nothing

What a sermon we had on Palm Sunday to introduce Holy Week!  Pastor Douthwaite preached on Philippians 2:5-8:  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

He made Himself nothing.

The word used there is the word ekenosen, which means He emptied Himself. Some Bibles translate it that way, and so its important to know what that means, and what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that the Son of God left His godness behind in heaven when He became a man. It doesn’t mean He left His power and glory in heaven when He became a man. It doesn’t mean that when He was arrested and manhandled by the Roman soldiers, when He stood before Pilate, and when He hung on the cross, He was helpless and couldn’t do anything about it. He could have. Easily. The same Son of God who healed folks of every disease and sickness, who knew the thoughts and hearts of men, who could command all creation by His Word, whose glory shone in His transfiguration, and who had power over death – that is the Jesus of the Passion. The Son of God who willingly didn’t use all that power when it came time to save Himself. He made Himself nothing.

Yet perhaps we could go even farther than that, if that’s possible – He made Himself less than nothing. Taking upon Himself the sin of the world, He was the greatest sinner ever. Whoever you usually think has that title, the most evilest person you can think of, you’re wrong – it’s Jesus. He is the worst idolater, the worst unbeliever, the worst hater, the worst scoundrel, the worst murderer, the worst adulterer, the worst thief, the worst liar, the worst cheat, the worst everything . . . because He’s got all your sins and all my sins and all the sin of all the people out there, on Him.

Unfair? No. He took them. He wanted them. So that they would be on Him and not on you. So that they would be held against Him and not against you. So that He would be forsaken for them and die for them and not you.

He made Himself nothing.

The king becomes a servant. God becomes man. The One subject to none makes Himself subject to all. The author of life dies. The glory of God is hung on a cross.

Why? For you.

That’s what this day, and all this week, is all about. With all that you hear today, all that you hear this week, the thought to put in your mind is this: He did all this for me. For me. Not just for the world. For me. He made Himself nothing, to make you something. To make you a child of God. And that was worth it. For the Father, that was worth sending His Son. For Jesus, that was worth all the pain and agony and death. You were worth it. You may not be anything in anybody’s eyes; maybe not even in your own eyes. But you are in God’s eyes.

Maybe you think you’re nothing and that’s why you spend so much time trying to make yourself something. But there is simply nothing greater you can do or make yourself than what Jesus has made you: a child of God. That gives you more value than anything else in this world. And God has done that. He said it to you when you were baptized: You are now My beloved Son.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Palmarum/Passion Sunday Sermon.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Michael B.

    “He made Himself nothing.”

    “It doesn’t mean He left His power and glory in heaven when He became a man. ”

    Mark reports that Jesus said: “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?”. Mark did not mean this as Jesus asking a rhetorical question! Jesus is in complete agony here, both physically and emotionally. In Mark, Jesus has been abandoned by everyone — family, disciples, even God, and he isn’t aware that everything is going to eventually be alright. The worst kind of suffering can be alleviated in by knowing that everything will turn out okay or if you know it’s for a good cause and will be celebrated, but Jesus apparently doesn’t even have this minimum comfort while on the cross.

  • Michael B.

    “He made Himself nothing.”

    “It doesn’t mean He left His power and glory in heaven when He became a man. ”

    Mark reports that Jesus said: “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?”. Mark did not mean this as Jesus asking a rhetorical question! Jesus is in complete agony here, both physically and emotionally. In Mark, Jesus has been abandoned by everyone — family, disciples, even God, and he isn’t aware that everything is going to eventually be alright. The worst kind of suffering can be alleviated in by knowing that everything will turn out okay or if you know it’s for a good cause and will be celebrated, but Jesus apparently doesn’t even have this minimum comfort while on the cross.

  • Paul Steitz

    “But the deepest stroke that pierced Him was the stroke that Justice gave.”

  • Paul Steitz

    “But the deepest stroke that pierced Him was the stroke that Justice gave.”

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Amen!

    Thank you, Pastor Douthwaite!

    And thank you, Dr. Veith for posting this.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Amen!

    Thank you, Pastor Douthwaite!

    And thank you, Dr. Veith for posting this.

  • Abby

    “To make you a child of God. And that was worth it. For the Father, that was worth sending His Son. For Jesus, that was worth all the pain and agony and death. You were worth it. You may not be anything in anybody’s eyes; maybe not even in your own eyes. But you are in God’s eyes.”

    These are Really Hard Words to comprehend. They make me cry. They are deep Grace. “And God has done that.” We never could have made our way back to God. God’s justice is from love.

  • Abby

    “To make you a child of God. And that was worth it. For the Father, that was worth sending His Son. For Jesus, that was worth all the pain and agony and death. You were worth it. You may not be anything in anybody’s eyes; maybe not even in your own eyes. But you are in God’s eyes.”

    These are Really Hard Words to comprehend. They make me cry. They are deep Grace. “And God has done that.” We never could have made our way back to God. God’s justice is from love.

  • EGK

    I’ve always been bothered by modern translations that render 2 Cor 5:21, “For our sakes He made him to be sin who knew no sin,” as “He who knew no sin became a sin offering for us.” While true, it makes no sense grammatically, since it is followed by, “so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” He becomes a sin offering because He was made to be sin.

  • EGK

    I’ve always been bothered by modern translations that render 2 Cor 5:21, “For our sakes He made him to be sin who knew no sin,” as “He who knew no sin became a sin offering for us.” While true, it makes no sense grammatically, since it is followed by, “so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” He becomes a sin offering because He was made to be sin.

  • http://mark.veenman@gmail.com Mark Veenman

    Michael B. @ 1: “and he isn’t aware that everything is going to eventually be alright.”
    Please clarify.

  • http://mark.veenman@gmail.com Mark Veenman

    Michael B. @ 1: “and he isn’t aware that everything is going to eventually be alright.”
    Please clarify.

  • MarkB

    EGK @ 5,
    I see a parallel in the old testament to 2 Cor 5:21 where Moses makes the brass serpent Num 21:9 and has it lifted up on pole so that any who see it and are bitten by a snake live. The snake is a symbol of sin/sinfullness since it was the devil in the form of a snake who tempted Eve and then Adam in the garden. So this would be a type of Christ lifted on the cross, being sin for the salvation of the whole world.

  • MarkB

    EGK @ 5,
    I see a parallel in the old testament to 2 Cor 5:21 where Moses makes the brass serpent Num 21:9 and has it lifted up on pole so that any who see it and are bitten by a snake live. The snake is a symbol of sin/sinfullness since it was the devil in the form of a snake who tempted Eve and then Adam in the garden. So this would be a type of Christ lifted on the cross, being sin for the salvation of the whole world.

  • Pingback: For You. | LW Theology

  • Pingback: For You. | LW Theology

  • http://dismaseve.wordpress.com St Dismas

    I believe there is so much more to the life of the repentant thief on the cross named St Dismas according to history documentation. Being the only one promised to see paradise on the day of the Lord’s crucification even out of the 12 discipes, there must of been other notable decisions in St Dismas’s life. He is a perfect example that it is never too late to get saved, even in our darkest hour.

  • http://dismaseve.wordpress.com St Dismas

    I believe there is so much more to the life of the repentant thief on the cross named St Dismas according to history documentation. Being the only one promised to see paradise on the day of the Lord’s crucification even out of the 12 discipes, there must of been other notable decisions in St Dismas’s life. He is a perfect example that it is never too late to get saved, even in our darkest hour.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X