Sunday of the Passion (Palm Sunday) – Epistle

by Crossings

Single-Minded Messiah
Sunday of the Passion (Palm Sunday)
Philippians 2:5-11
Analysis by Douglas B. Chamberlain

Philippians 2: 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


Diagnosis: “The Form of a Slave”

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) – Many Names
“What church do you belong to?” “St. John by the Gas Station.” An accurate answer, yet one that betrays division, for St. John by the Gas Station is not the same as Holy Trinity in the Country. A subtle division, perhaps, a division necessitated by something as innocuous as geography, but division nonetheless. There are less innocuous divisions our names betray: Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Baptist; Confessional, Innovative, Traditional; pro-life, pro-choice; Democrat, Republican, Green, Natural Law, Populist. Whether it be as petty as the color of the new carpet in the fireside room, or as weighty as communing visitors or laying hands on bishops, our divisions prove we are not “standing firm in one spirit” (1:27) or doing “all things without murmuring and arguing” (2:14). We are not living our lives “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27).

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) – Misshapen
The names we bear and the divisions which they betray make clear we are not of “this same mind,” one to another. “This same mind” is the mind that has the same love, is in full accord, does nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, regards others as better than oneself and looks to the interests of others (2:2b-4). As it turns out, however, we are indeed of the same mind, no matter how at odds we are over the carpet. We act against one another because our minds are set on ourselves and other earthly things (3:19). We have this in common: we are curvatus in se, ‘curved in on ourselves.’ From such a stance we can only regard ourselves as better than others. We are enslaved to ourselves. Even our best attempts to imitate Jesus (WWJD) can be only that, imitation, aping the example rather than acting from a mind shaped by Christ.

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) – Enemies
While Paul looks to the saints in Philippi–and to us!–to make his joy complete (2:2a), we instead bring him sorrow and shame. And not only Paul, but Christ Jesus as well. We have become part of the crooked and perverse generation (2:15). Worse yet, we are enemies of the cross of Christ (3:17-21) and, as with all such enemies whose end (telos) is destruction, the judgment of God will be the end of us.

Prognosis: Cruciform

Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution) – Conformed (Jesus to Us)
There is another mind at work, the one that was in Christ Jesus (2:5). This Jesus was single minded in his obedience to his Father–God the Father. So, though his form is the form of his Father (v. 6), nonetheless he emptied himself and took our form (v. 7), conforming to the human, the form humiliated and misshapen and curved in on itself. Jesus stretched out this form upon the cross and made it cruciform, his single-minded obedience taking him to the point of death, even death on a cross (v. 8). Human form was now made cruciform, and God exalted the cruciform human and gave him the name that is above every name: Jesus Christ (v. 9).

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution) – Conformed (We to Jesus)
Jesus makes his name our name. By our baptism into Christ, God the Father no longer knows us by the myriad names we use. He now knows us by the name of Jesus. Consequently, our shape is Jesus’ shape: crucified and exalted, becoming like him in his death (3:10), so that our form curved in upon itself straightens up now by faith, and in the end by our exaltation. Now we have the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus.

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution) – Single-Minded
Now we need not ape and imitate, but we act from the mind shaped by Christ. From the cruciform shape our humanity has taken, we actually see beyond ourselves, look to the interests of others, in humility regard others as better than ourselves (2:3-4). And together, under the one name of Jesus, we bend the knee at his name (2:10), and our tongues confess that the cruciform human, Jesus Christ, is Lord, and, in the course of it, God the Father gets his glory (v. 11).

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  • Crossings

    Crossings is a community of welcoming, inquisitive people who want to explore how what we hear at church is useful and beneficial in our daily lives.

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