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Kenosis

December 14, 2018

Sometimes we use the phrase “he gave it all they had”, or, they “left it all out there”, particularly in athletics. This means they emptied themselves into whatever it is and poured all of their effort into the task at hand. We say that because we know that if we hold something back, we may not have success, and we may leave with regret. Jesus speaks of that when he says things like “love your neighbor as yourself” and “deny yourself, take up cross”. We were created deny ourselves, serve the Lord and serve others. 

Though we are approaching Christmas, today we are looking at a passage of Scripture not common to the Christmas story, but shows us exactly what Jesus did. We grow up in Sunday School reading of Jesus in Luke Chapter 2 and we think that is when Jesus was created. However, further study of Scripture reveals something else. John 1:1says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word, being Jesus, has been present from eternity past. Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”, speaking of the Trinity. Jesus is part of that Trinity that has been in existence always. 

Jesus gave up a great deal to come to earth and to be humiliated, dishonored, misunderstood, beaten & crucified. Scripture says he emptied Himself, which in the Greek is known as His Kenosis, or making Himself nothing – but of what?

Philippians 2:6-11,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 and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus, had all the privileges as king of the universe – gave them up to become an ordinary Jewish baby bound for the cross.

But what did Jesus actually do to accomplish this? What does this emptying actually consist of?

  • He abandoned a sovereign position– not His deity, but His sovereign position. If He emptied Himself of those characteristics, He would no longer be God. The emptying didn’t change who He was. Here is what He gave up:
    • Gave up His glory- John 17:5,“And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
    • Gave up His honor, Isaiah 53:3, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” 
    • Gave up His riches- 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
    • Gave up his favorable relation to His Father,Matthew 27:46, And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
    • Gave up His independent exercise of authority- John 5:19, “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”
  • He accepted a servant’s place (V7“but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…”)
    • When he divested Himself of His robes of majesty, He donned the servant’s apron.
    • John 13:8, Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”
  • He approached a sinful people (V7 “being born in the likeness of men”)
    • V8, And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 
    • He was born in a little Jewish village, ate like them, talked like them, transported himself the way they did. 
  • He adopted a selfless posture (V8 “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death…”)
    • Serving as a carpenter’s apprentice, watching feet, places of humility, a filthy stable.
    • Mathew 26:39, And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
    • He died a cross – the most humiliating of deaths possible.
  • He ascended a supreme prince (V9-10 “at the name of Jesus”)
    • Ephesians 1:21, says He is to be “21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”

Jesus gave everything up, so we could have everything. Are we really willing to put Him first? What does that look like? He emptied Himself of desire, of position, and of expectation – but His character remained intact. Let us empty ourselves in the image of Christ – of our expectations, desires, and strongholds – so that we may be filled with His Spirit and ready to serve.

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

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