Second Reading: Philippians 2:6-11

Empty Himself

Popular Translation

6 Christ Jesus lived as God. He did not have to try to be God. 7 Instead, Jesus emptied himself like a servant when he was born. When he grew up, he humbled himself and obeyed God, even as he died on the cross. 9 So, God raised Jesus up and gave him a name that was more glorious than any other name. 10 In heaven, on the earth, and even in the grave, everyone must worship Jesus whenever his name is mentioned. And every language must declare "Jesus Christ is Lord" as a way to glorify God the Father.

Literal Translation

5 Reflect on this among you, which is also in Christ Jesus:

6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider a grasp to be equal to God, 7 but emptied himself, having taken the form of a servant, becoming in the likeness of men. Being found as the shape as a man, 8 he humbled himself, becoming obedient until death, death on a cross. 9 On which account God elevated HIM and (freely) gave favor to HIM with the name above every name, 10 so that in the name of JESUS every knee might bend in the heavens, on the earth, and underground, 11 and every tongue might confess "Jesus Christ is Lord," unto the glory of God the Father.

For over the past 60 years, most biblical scholars have seen this passage as a hymn sung in early Christian communities. Paul adopted (even adapted) the song for his letter to the Philippians. The original form is hotly debated; some group the verses into two stanzas (6-8 & 9-11); others group the verses into three stanzas (6-7a, 7b-8, & 9-11). Whether Paul made additions or subtractions to the hymn is unknown. The author, influences, and background are speculative. But, the verses do reflect the early Christian belief that identified the Christ as Isaiah's Suffering Servant.

Notice hymn began with the divine (2:6) and returned to the divine (2:9-11). But, the focus was on Jesus. He existed in God and did not "seize" Godhood. Instead, Jesus descended to the level of humanity. 2:7b-8 used two phrases built around the verb "becoming." In 2:7c, "becoming in the likeness of men" referred back to Jesus emptying himself into the form of a servant (2:7b). In 2:8b, "becoming obedient until death" referred back to the humiliation of Jesus (2:8a). The core of the hymn used "emptying" for the Incarnation and "humbling" for the Passion, the two pillars of our faith in Christ. God responded with the resurrection (2:9a) and glorification (2:9b) of Christ. The response of the follower is worship (2:10) and profession of faith (2:11).

So, why did the Christians sing this hymn? They worshiped and professed faith in Christ because of the self-giving nature of their Savior and because of God's activity. The divine Son of God was humble in his birth and death. God was faithful to his Son and his followers. He gave both eternal life.

How does Christ serve you? How does his service inspire you to worship God? How do you honor the name of Jesus?