And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
From beginning to end, Jesus’ life on earth was marked by humility. “Though he was in the form of God, [he] 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” (Philippians 2:7-8).
Jesus “emptied himself.” This is not to say he became something less than God in his humanity, “for in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9). It is to say that he became human, laying down his glorious form to take up a body of flesh. An incomparable condescension. The Son of God gave up his seat at the right hand of the Father for a place at the table with sinners and tax collectors. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). “Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Jesus “humbled himself.” The emphasis is on obedience to the will of the Father, which was the death of his Son on a cross. An unbearable thought. But it is in his obedience that we see his humility. The night before his crucifixion, Jesus “began to be greatly distressed and troubled. He said to his disciples, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.’ And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me’” (Mark 14:33-36). “The cup” is Old Testament imagery for the wrath of God against sin. Jesus, in the garden, acknowledges what is to come on the cross, where he will take upon himself God’s judgment against the sin of the world. Jesus’ agony in the garden was more than betrayal or death, both of which are tragic in themselves. It was about the infinitely perfect and eternally unbroken love between the Father and his beloved Son, and the prospect of the Father turning away. The mere taste of it was overwhelming sorrow.
The thought of drinking the cup in full was so dreadful that Jesus asked if there was any way to avoid it. He went to God like a little child who believes that Dad is able to get him out of whatever difficulty he’s in. Jesus asked, “Dad, you can do anything … can you take this cup from me?” For Jesus’ whole life, whenever he turned to the Father in prayer, he found comfort and strength. All the light and love of heaven flooded his soul. This time he turns to the Father and “finds hell rather heaven opened up before him” (William Lane).
It was sorrow unto death. When you see that the mere taste of the cup was enough to throw the Son into this kind of pain, then you are ready in this season to consider what the full experience on the cross must have been like for him. You can begin to understand the depth of humility that says, “Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).
Have you given thanks for the humility of Jesus?
What are you holding on to that you need to let go of for the good of others?
Do you sense a need to submit to God in some area of your life?
Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.