Jesus came down from heaven to be with us as one of us. That we can easily see. But His descent didn’t end there—with becoming like us. He descended further and became what we had always been meant to be. Then He descended even further to become what we had never been meant to be. We, on the other hand, can hardly wait to rise higher. We all too often hate and fear the descent, even though it is life-saving and soul-transforming.
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. Philippians 2:5-9 ESV
The Man Going Up
The Bible is full of ironies. Picture this one: Saul storming across the Syrian plains towards Damascus, “hell-bent” on crushing the infant sect of Nazarenes there. Indignation over their religious error inflames his zeal. Unholy ambition to make a name for himself spurs him on. Then, from out of the blue, a totally unexpected revelation literally knocks him off his “high horse.” Saul has been persecuting the very Lord he believes he is serving! Until this moment Saul is a man going up, blinded by pride. It’s only when he meets the “Man Going Down” that his spiritual eyes are opened. His life will never be the same. He, too, becomes a man going down.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. Philippians 3:7-8
What is it about Jesus that can produce such a change? Many things, no doubt, but for now let’s focus on this one: His perfect humility. This is one of His most endearing characteristics, but it is also one of the least expected. Let us remember that none of the ancients would ever have thought to see humility in their gods—those exalted beings (demons really) demanded obedience, respect, worship and service worthy of their high rank. Not Jesus. He didn’t come expecting to be served.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
We should have been willing to live for Him and die for Him, our Creator and our Supreme Lord. He could have stayed in heaven where He belonged. Instead, He chose to live and die for us. He descended in order to rescue us. Seeing this about Him crushes our self-centered blindness. In conversion we see our sins: that humbles us. We also see our Savior taking our place: that humbles us even more. We see in Him what we should have been and what we now desire to become.
Saul wasn’t the only man going up. All of us, men and women, have been going up into pride ever since birth. This primary temptation underlies all of our temptations: to become “like God” in our own little worlds—just as Adam and Eve were tempted before us. Part of what this means is that we enthrone our own opinion as Truth and then use our wills to act independently of God. As “gods” with Self stubbornly set on the throne, we are restless, un-trusting and resentful under the conditions and limitations of our humanity.