Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross. (verses 5-8)
There are two places this passage causes us to focus our eyes. First and foremost, we focus on our Lord. This powerful hymn rivets our eyes on Christ Jesus – how could it not?
But secondly, we’re to focus on our own attitude. Having seen Jesus clearly, we’re to match our own perspective to his.
When we lift our sights to Jesus himself, we see him coming down. Someone has described this whole passage (verses 6-11) as “Descending into Greatness.” Down, down, down Jesus comes, laying aside his rights as God, and entering human experience. “Thou who art God, beyond all praising, all for love’s sake becamest man.” But though this is described as “making himself nothing,” the descent doesn’t stop there. Becoming man is but the first step. Jesus humbles himself further, becoming submissive to the utterly foreign experience of death. Nor does it stop there. More abased yet, he yields to the abject humiliation and sheer shame of the cross. This is descent. This is what it means to take “the very nature of a servant.”
Though the passage doesn’t specify, all of this was prompted by love. This insight permeates the whole of scripture, but comes out clearly in an incident from Jesus’ life which, in capsule form, paints a picture of this descent. The incident, of course, is the foot-washing. John introduces it by saying that Jesus, “having loved his own who were in the world, now showed them the full extent of his love” (John 13:1). Yes, love was the reason. So, Jesus, knowing “the Father had put all things under his power” (John 13:3), got up from the table and began his descent. He stripped off his outer clothing, laying it aside with his rights as Lord and Master. Wrapping a towel around his waist, he looked like a common slave. Down he came – down to each pair of feet, down as a servant focused on the menial task of cleansing the grime, giving refreshing relief, washing away the dirt of life. All for love’s sake.
And then he put the focus back on the disciples’ own attitudes. “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you,” he said (John 13:15). Paul tells us the same: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
With eyes on Jesus, we will be led into profound praise and thanksgiving. Especially as our sights are raised to see him exalted to the highest place. With bent knees we will join our voices with all creation, shouting out the name above every name, confessing Jesus as Lord (verses 9-11).
But it’s not enough. With eyes on Jesus, we turn eyes upon ourselves, too, and pattern our attitude and behaviour after his. We praise him through obedience. We live it out on this common plain of earthly existence, right here with one another – grimy feet and all – in humility considering others better than ourselves.
With eyes on Jesus, may it be.
Dear Lord Jesus, this willingness to come down is hard work. It doesn’t come naturally. It’s not my default setting. Give me fresh eyes to see your humble example. Give me the empowering of your Spirit to come down to serve. Just like you.
Reflect: Looking ahead into the rest of your day, what is one circumstance in which you can live out Jesus’ attitude today?
Photo by Rodolfo Clix: https://www.pexels.com/photo/silhouette-image-of-person-praying-1615776/