On this Good Friday, I have been meditating on Paul's words to the Philippians (Phil. 2:5-11 ESV), which was probably a hymn sung by early followers of Jesus in their worship gatherings:
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. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We focus this weekend on Christ's death, burial, and resurrection--the greatest sacrifice known to mankind that has purchased forgiveness of sins and the victory over death that offers new life to all who believe. Let us also consider Christ's humility as the God-man as captured in the thought of two church fathers from the fourth and fifth centuries.
When he dwelled among humans he appeared as God by his acts and works. For the form of God differs in nothing from God. Indeed, the reason for his being called the form and image of God is to make it apparent that he himself, though distinguishable from God the Father, is everything that God is (Ambrosiaster, Epistle to the Philippians 2.6-2.8.5).
Augustine, in a teaching from John's Gospel, added:
The master of humility is Christ who humbled himself and became obedient even to death, even the death of the cross. Thus he does not lose his divinity when he teaches us humility.... What great thing was it to the king of the ages to become the king of humanity? For Christ was not the king of Israel so that he might exact a tax or equip an army with weaponry and visibly vanquish an enemy. He was the king of Israel in that he rules minds, in that he gives counsel for eternity, in that he leads into the kingdom of heaven for those who believe, hope and love. It is a condescension, not an advancement for one who is the Son of God, equal to the Father, the Word through whom all things were made, to become king of Israel. It is an indication of pity, not an increase in power (Augustine, Tractates on John 51.3-4).
(Selections from Crosby and Oden, Ancient Christian Devotional: Lectionary Cycle B, Kindle Locations, 855-58, 869-872).