April 4, 2020

Thursday in Holy Week: Love Best Described in Poetry

And the Word was made Flesh”. Painting in the collection of Sneha Sadan, Pune

For Maundy Thursday

• • •

There are some things that can, perhaps, only be said in poetry, and perhaps this [Phil 2:5-11] is one of them.

• Tom Wright

PHILIPPIANS 2:5-11

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became humanHaving become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

This is one of the most discussed theological texts in the New Testament — Philippians 2:5-11, the “Christ-hymn” that describes the “kenosis” of Jesus.

Gerald F. Hawthorne’s interpretation of Phil. 2:5-11 is one of my favorite commentary passages that I have read in biblical studies.

He first describes the near universal agreement that “vv 6-11 constitute a beautiful example of a very early hymn of the Christian church.” Scholars, however, have a number of different ideas about how the hymn might have been structured. Whatever the versification of the hymn might have been, it is clear that it has two basic parts. There are four main verbs: the first two have Jesus as the subject, the second two have God. The hymn then naturally falls into the story of (1) Jesus’ acts of humbling himself, and (2) God’s act of exalting Jesus.

Hawthorne notes that Paul himself may be the author of the hymn or it may come from another source. The striking insight that I learned many years ago from him when considering this passage is that it appears to be a meditation on an event recorded in the Gospel of John.

“…may be the result of deep meditation…on one particular event from the life of Christ as recorded in the gospel tradition — Jesus washing his disciples’ feet (John 13:3-17). Although verbal parallels between John 13:3-17 and Phil 2:6-11 are few, but nonetheless significant, the parallels in thought and in the progression of action are startling. So precise in fact are these parallels that it is difficult to consider them the result of mere coincidence.

Hawthorne uses the following diagram to portray these parallels:

This hymn, whether Paul wrote it or not, emphasizes Jesus’ act of humility using an “descent-ascent motif that is prominent in the Johannine story.”

Gerald Hawthorne also notes another important parallel between the way both John and this epistle reflect on the foot-washing story:

It is also interesting and instructive to note that the purpose of each pericope is similar. The Johannine account is an acted parable to summarize the essence of Jesus’ teaching: “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to hold the first place among you must be everybody’s slave” (Mark 10:43-44), while the Philippian text is a hymn to illustrate powerfully Paul’s teaching, which at this point is identical with that of Jesus:  humble, self-sacrificing service to one another done in love is a must for a Christian disciple who would live as a Christian disciple should (Phil 2:3-4).

Comments

  1. –> “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to hold the first place among you must be everybody’s slave”

    Oooh, oooh! Sign me up!!!

    In other words, is it really any wonder that small is the gate and narrow the road, and only a few find it?

  2. Christiane says

    “PHILIPPIANS 2:5-11

    Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

    Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.”

    The following video link speaks of this portion of sacred Scripture as a ‘pythian encapsulation of the gospel’ and also places this beautiful portion of Scripture into the setting of St. Paul and the jailer who accepted Christ:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qUW7IxapdU

  3. Steve Newell says

    Jesus’s humiliation both becoming man and dying on the cross is something that American Christianity does not handle will. We are all about living “you best life now” and “purposed driving living”. We love the Theology of Glory but we hate the Theology of the Cross.

    We see this during Holy Week with many churches not having Maundy Thursday service, Good Friday service or Saturday Easter Vigils but only having Easter services. Without all the days of Holy Week, there is not meaning to Christ’s resurrection.

    • It’s not sonething that most people handle well. But yeah, America in particular, with our can-do, gung-ho, good-guys-always-triumph, get-what-you-deserve national mythos… that’s tailor made Theology of Glory fodder.

      • john barry says

        Eeyore, Not aware of an American Orthodox Church you describe with American Christianity being all over the map. Americans or any one in the world do not have to worry about getting what they deserve if they accept Jesus Christ, he died so we do not get what we deserve

        If the metaphor for Christians is good guys they do triumph when it matters, at the end of our earthly life. I think Mother Teresa was gung ho, can do and loved Jesus and she was not even an American. Imagine what she could have done if she was from Merica.

    • john barry says

      Steve, so if I believe totally in the resurrection of Jesus Christ only go to worship service on Easter Sunday or perhaps not at all, but I truly believe in the resurrection and that Jesus is my Savior not observing the days of Holy week means I have lost the “meaning” of resurrection Sunday?

      Ok, with me of course if that is your belief , because we are still in the same place, believers in Jesus Christ as our Savior. If you feel the need and believe you must observe the Holy Week to keep the meaning, that is great but we are both at the same end place, we believe Jesus is who He said He is.

      • Christiane says

        Hi J.B.
        the devils ALSO believe Jesus is Who He says He is,
        and they tremble . . . .

        I’m thinking that, if there is any criteria to measure ‘faith in Christ’, it might show up in a person’s life if they possess these traits:
        1. Love – 2. Joy – 3. Peace – 4. Longsuffering – 5. Kindness
        6. Goodness – 7. Faithfulness – 8. Gentleness – 9. Self Control

        it is said that only by the power of the Holy Spirit can a believer call Christ ‘Lord’ so I expect that the Presence of the Holy Spirit in that believer’s life will show some fruit eventually

        • –> “1. Love – 2. Joy – 3. Peace – 4. Longsuffering – 5. Kindness
          6. Goodness – 7. Faithfulness – 8. Gentleness – 9. Self Control”

          And against those things there is no law!

          • And in the context of Galatians (and Paul’s argument) those are all relational – it’s love toward others, joy with others, peace with others, longsuffering with others (so I don’t hit you!), etc. Seems like churches are (and have always been, since Paul wrote Galatians) places where that is sometimes hard to find. That’s actually why Paul wrote what he did in Phil. 2.

    • The suffering of and evil in ordinary, everyday life provide the background for understanding the meaning of Christ’s resurrection; else, the Christians of the first decades and centuries of our era did not understand the meaning of it, because they did not observe, had not yet invented, Lent or Holy Week.

  4. Susan Dumbrell says

    Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray.

    • Nope. 🙁 And if His saw-and-followed-Him-in-the-flesh disciples couldn’t hack it…

      • Exactly.

      • True.

      • –> “And if His saw-and-followed-Him-in-the-flesh disciples couldn’t hack it…”

        And along those lines, I often say, “If Adam and Eve, the FIRST OF HIS CREATION, ZERO STEPS REMOVED FROM HIS INTENDED COMPANIONS, couldn’t hack it…”

  5. I love the painting. And love the idea that the hymn came from deep meditation of the washing of the feet. I wonder if I took more time to meditate on scripture what glorious ideas will the Spirit fill me with. Blessings to you all during these Holy Days.

    • I didn’t really look closely at the painting until reading your comment. Yes, lovely painting!

  6. Christiane says

    Hi J.B.
    the devils ALSO believe Jesus is Who He says He is,
    and they tremble . . . .

    I’m thinking that, if there is any criteria to measure ‘faith in Christ’, it might show up in a person’s life if they possess these traits:
    1. Love – 2. Joy – 3. Peace – 4. Longsuffering – 5. Kindness
    6. Goodness – 7. Faithfulness – 8. Gentleness – 9. Self Control

    it is said that only by the power of the Holy Spirit can a believer call Christ ‘Lord’ so I expect that the Presence of the Holy Spirit in that believer’s life will show some fruit eventually

    • Christiane, Though JB and I differ on a number of theological and political matters, it’s clear from his comment that when he talks about believing in Jesus he is including trusting and trying to follow him, which makes it completely different from the devils’ knowledge of Jesus’ identity.

  7. john barry says

    Christiane, well said. There is only one judge that matters in the end. Mother Teresa died the same day that Princess Diana got killed in the crash. Guess who got the attention and good vibes in the secular world where the faithful servant of the Lord got lost in the news rather quickly . We know Mother Teresa demonstrated to us the 9 traits you list because she was not a hearer but a doer, she was a believer even better than the Monkees. She was known by her fruits for sure.

    • Christiane says

      An American attended Mother’s state funeral in India and he noticed something that he remembered more than anything . . . . in accordance with the custom of her order, her feet were bare of shoes and she was covered by the flag of India out of respect, but her feet still showed . . . .

      they were ‘worn out’, deformed, painful to look at because of the blisters and roughness of the skin . . .

      I think that Diana got more attention would have been OK with Mother . . . . Mother Teresa had other priorities in this life than personal fame . . . . matter of fact, Diana had met Mother Teresa and admired her greatly, and Diana had also attempted to reach out to those who were in need of help . . . . both Diana and Mother beautiful souls, even if the soles on Mother’s feet were hard to look at as she lay on her bier . . . . . . those worn feet were witness to a life of service and self-giving

      As for all of the criticism of Mother Teresa, it wouldn’t have mattered at all to her . . . she was too busy to pay attention to critics and now she rests even if in some circles, her reputation is savaged

  8. “Kenosys” is our calling. Every one of us. We can’t get to resurrection without it… Celebrating holy week is a reminder.

  9. Susan Dumbrell says

    Can’t we give just one hour each year of our busy lives to watch and pray??
    Reconsider priorities.

    • Susan, I wonder why you believe that, because people make comments here, they are not also attempting at least to watch and pray, during Holy Week, and other times of year for that matter? The posts at iMonk invite and welcome commentary, otherwise the comments would be closed, and are comments themselves; do you believe that there should be no posts during Holy Week?

  10. Lord Jesus
    you can always find me
    at the bottom