Sermon

Philippians 2:5-11

What Would Jesus Ride?

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Dr. Mickey Anders

Philippians 2:5-11

What would Jesus drive? If Jesus were on earth today, what kind of vehicle would he choose? Can you imagine Jesus tooling around town in Volkswagen Beetle or do you see him driving a Hummer? What would Jesus drive?

I recently found two very different answers to this question. The first came from a coalition of religious and environmental groups who recently launched a “What Would Jesus Drive?” campaign, hoping to get people to switch to more fuel-efficient cars. It’s a joint effort of the National Council of Churches, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life. The group sponsored television advertising in several states to urge consumers to park their sport/utility vehicles, claiming that Jesus would prefer a cleaner vehicle. (1)

At a website called www.whatwouldjesusdrive.org, they encourage people to take the following pledge:

“Confessing Jesus Christ to be my Savior and Lord, including Lord of my transportation choices, I pledge the following.

· I will organize my life so that it is easier and more desirable to walk, bike, car pool, and use public transportation.

· If I need to purchase a vehicle, I will choose the most fuel efficient and least polluting vehicle available that truly fits my needs.

· I will discuss with others the moral concerns and solutions associated with transportation.

· I will encourage automobile manufacturers to produce the most fuel-efficient and least polluting vehicles possible that truly fit the needs of the American people.

· I will urge government leaders to support public transportation, a significant increase in fuel economy standards, and research and development for promising new transportation technologies that reduce pollution and increase fuel efficiency.” (2)

Obviously, their answer is that Jesus would drive a fuel-efficient vehicle.

Another website provides humorous answers to the question, “What would Jesus drive?” One theory is that Jesus would tool around in an old Plymouth because the Bible says, “God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden in a Fury.” But in Psalm 83, the Almighty clearly owns a Pontiac and a Geo. The passage urges the Lord to, “pursue your enemies with your Tempest and terrify them with your Storm” (Psalm 83:15). Perhaps, God favors Dodge pickup trucks, because Moses’ followers are warned not to go up a mountain “until the Ram’s horn sounds a long blast” (Exodus 19:13). Joshua drove a Triumph sports car with a hole in its muffler: “Joshua’s Triumph was heard throughout the land.” And, following the Master’s lead, the Apostles car-pooled in a Honda. “The Apostles were in one Accord” (Acts 5:12). (3)

Of course there were no automobiles in Jesus day so the more appropriate question is, “What would Jesus ride?” Jesus could have ridden a magnificent thoroughbred racehorse like we raise and race here in Kentucky. Maybe he would ride a sturdy wagon pulled by a team of Clydesdale horses. Perhaps he would ride in a gilt-edged chariot pulled by six fast steeds. Or he might ride a white stallion, prancing triumphantly into town in the manner of kings returning from victorious battle.

But in fact, we all know what Jesus would ride. In the Triumphal Entry Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey instead of the stallion used by kings and princes. Though he was the Son of God and had every right to ride into Jerusalem on a white horse and be crowned with a golden crown with many jewels, instead he came riding on a simple donkey, a burden bearer.

 

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Jesus never seemed to be in a hurry. In stark contrast to the hurried pace of our modern world, Jesus moved at a different speed. It wasn’t the speed of success; it was Godspeed.

Jesus, though he was Lord of the universe did not make a glorious entrance, but a humble one. In so doing he fulfilled the prophet Zechariah’s words: “Behold, your King comes to you! He is righteous, and having salvation; lowly, and riding on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” He didn’t come to display his majesty as God, but to give his life as a ransom for many. He didn’t come to be served, but to serve, and his service would take him to the cross.

Paul writes in Philippians to explain this new attitude of Jesus.

“Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross.”

I want to briefly point out several key ideas in this text.

1) Form of God

First, notice the terms “form of God” and “equality with God.” These references tell us that Jesus is God. One of the most amazing aspects of the disciples’ experience with Jesus was their impossible conclusion about him. Every Jewish man prayed every day a prayer that said, “The Lord our God is One.” But after living with Jesus for three years, they began to think the impossible. They began to realize that Jesus was God.

The writer of Hebrews says, “His Son is the radiance of (God’s) glory, the very image of (God’s) substance.” (Hebrews 1:3).

Colossians 1:15 says that Jesus, “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”And four verses later adds, “For all the fullness (of God) was pleased to dwell in him.”

In the Gospel of John, the writer refers to Jesus when he says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

2) Emptied himself
The second important phrase is “emptied himself.” This little poem is often referred to as a “kenotic hymn” because of the Greek word “kenosis,” which means “to make empty,” or “to deprive of content or possession.”

In other words, Jesus was with God and Jesus was God, but he considered it more important to save humanity than to “hold onto,” or “exploit,” his divinity. Jesus is God, but this God humbled himself for our sake to die on the cross to save us from our sins and rose again from the dead on the third day.

3) Humbled himself
The third phrase to note has the words, “humbled himself.” In verse 5, Paul urges the Philippians to also put on this mind of Christ and his humility by putting aside all competition and internal strife. If even Christ was willing to put aside his rightful equality with God in order to save us, how much more so, Paul argues, must we be willing to put aside our personal “rights” and become servants to one another.

Columnist Philip Yancey recently made a list of the people who have most influenced him, whose qualities he very much wants to emulate. He reports that he stared at the list for some time before realizing that all have in common the surprising trait of humility.

Does this mean that they all have some kind of negative self-image? Not at all. The people on Yancey’s list excelled in school, won awards and have absolutely no reason to doubt their gifts and abilities. Humility is, for them, an ongoing choice to credit God for their natural gifts and then to use those gifts in God’s service.

“Humility has many dimensions,” writes Yancey. “My first employer showed it in the kind and patient way he treated me, a writer still wet behind the ears… . He saw his mission as not just to improve articles but to improve writers.

“Other heroes of mine exercise humility by finding a group overlooked and underserved. I think of Dr. Paul Brand, a promising young physician who volunteered in India as the first orthopedic surgeon to work with leprosy patients. Or of Henri Nouwen, professor at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard, who ended up among people having a fraction of those students’ IQs: the mentally handicapped at L’Arche homes in France and Toronto. Both of these men demonstrated to me that downward mobility can lead to the success that matters most.” They were people who moved, not at the speed of success, but at Godspeed.

True success belongs to those who have accepted the self-giving of Christ as the model for Christian behavior. It belongs to those who do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than themselves. It belongs to those leaders who define themselves not in terms of position and power, but in terms of usefulness to God and an ability to serve.

(4) Obedient to the point of death

Jesus does his lording by serving us. He is Lord over all because he became Lord under all. By emptying himself, taking on the form of a servant, becoming man, being obedient to the point of death on a cross, Jesus has become our Lord.

Martin Luther once said that our greatest need is for goat sense. He tells of seeing two goats meeting on a path on a mountain ledge. Instead of butting one another, one of them laid down and allowed the other one to pass over him.

Isn’t that what Jesus did on the cross? He laid down his life so that we might “cross” over to eternal life.

(5) God has exalted him

Our text says, “Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus didn’t lose anything by dying on the cross. In fact, he gained the whole world. The devil would have given him the whole world if he had just bowed down and worshipped him. But then Christ would no longer have been free. Jesus went the way of the cross in order to reconcile the world unto himself.

Humble people are the most beautiful people in the world. A well-known beauty product company asked the people in a large city to send pictures along with brief letters about the most beautiful women they knew. Within a few weeks thousands of letters were delivered to the company.

One letter in particular caught the attention of the employees, and soon it was handed to the company president. The letter was written by a young boy who was obviously from a broken home, living in a run-down neighborhood. With spelling corrections, an excerpt from his letter read: “A beautiful woman lives down the street from me. I visit her every day. She makes me feel like the most important kid in the world. We play checkers and she listens to my problems. She understands me, and when I leave she yells out the door that she’s proud of me.”

The boy ended his letter saying, “This picture shows you that she is the most beautiful woman. I hope I have a wife as pretty as her.”

Intrigued by the letter, the president asked to see this woman’s picture. His secretary handed him a photograph of a smiling, toothless woman, well-advanced in years, sitting in a wheelchair. Sparse gray hair was pulled back in a bun, and wrinkles that formed deep furrows on her face were somehow diminished by the twinkle in her eyes.

“We can’t use this woman,” explained the president, smiling. “She would show the world that our products aren’t necessary to be beautiful.” (6)

It’s not the outside that counts. It’s not our money or our power that makes one great and beautiful. It is what is inside that matters. Jesus showed us that the way to true greatness lies in the path of humility.

What would Jesus ride? He rode a donkey in humility and service to others, and he calls us to ride the same way.
Endnotes:
1) http://money.cnn.com/2002/11/20/news/companies/cars. Retrieved 4/10/2003.

2) http://www.whatwouldjesusdrive.org. Retrieved 4/10/2003.

3) http://www.highrock.com/personal/WWJD. Retrieved 4/10/2003.

4) Yancey, Philip. “Humility’s many faces.” Christianity Today, December 4, 2000.

5) Homiletics Online, 3/24/2002.

6) Source unknown. Quoted in Homiletics Online, 3/24/2002.

Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.

Copyright 2003, Mickey Anders. Used by permission.