Have this mind among yourselves, which is in Christ Jesus, who, being 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. (Philippians 2:5-8)
Last we discussed the rejection of retaliation in this text. According to the text, the rejection of retaliation is what it means to be truly human and truly divine. Jesus, who was “in the form of God”, did not achieve this status through violent striving but through self-emptying, humble submission. This attitude is what characterises true humanity and true divinity.
Now, Jesus’ self-emptying, humble submission becomes an example for us to follow. In following Jesus we become the true humanity and the true divinity. Although some wish to maintain a strict dichotomy between the human and the divine, this dichotomy is dissolved in Jesus, and in the Christian doctrine of the Holy Spirit who indwells humanity. Even the theological concept of God’s omnipresence (that is, his everywhere-ness) dictates that God is in all things including people. Driving a wedge between God and humanity is, therefore, out of sync with the most fundamental of Christian doctrines. To be truly human we must embrace our divinity by imitating Jesus’ self-emptying, humble submission.
Through his submission to death on the cross, Jesus starts a non-violent revolution.
While Caesar is grasping for power, Jesus is emptying himself.
While Caesar is forcing others to submit, Jesus is submitting.
While Caesar is killing, Jesus is dying.
Which all sounds kind of weak. However, as Jesus empties himself, he also empties Caesar of his power. As Jesus dies, so does Caesar’s power.
Caesar is violently grasping to be equal with god. As the self-proclaimed “son of god”, Caesar would bludgeon his enemies, and crucify those who refused to submit to his power. Caesar holds out crucifixion as a penalty to all those who dare defy him. He carries out crucifixions as public spectacles, designed as a warning to all who might me tempted to revolt. However, when Jesus humbly submits to crucifixion, and refuses to engage in Caesar’s grasping game, the crucifixion is transformed from an instrument of terror into an instrument of liberation. Christians were emancipated from Caesar’s terror as they followed Jesus and humbly embraced their martyrdom. Through their martyrdom, Christians discovered what is means to be truly human and truly divine.
For me, this is the power of the Easter story. If we can adopt an attitude of humble, self-emptying, then we are liberated from many of our fears. When we openly face and welcome fears, such as rejection, loneliness, and failure, they can no longer be held over us as an instrument of terror, but rather become instruments of freedom. May we all find liberation in facing and welcoming our fears in the wake of Easter.