Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
“Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.”
1. He emptied himself. Jesus’ self-emptying is unlike emptying a bottle. Neither is it like a change of costume or form. Rather the self-emptying refers to a change of nature. In Christ, divine nature genuinely and authentically enters the human reality. Jesus did not merely look like a human being. He became human. He became, who he was not! The self-emptying of Jesus means he personally entered human history to become one with us.
2. Taking the form of a slave. Jesus goes one step further. Jesus did not just become human. He became the least kind of human – a slave. Freedom separates us humans from all other creatures. Freedom is the essence of humanity. A slave is without freedom. A slave is at other people’s mercy. A slave does not have his/her own will. That is the problem with slavery – that humans are treated as if they were not human. Jesus did not merely become human. He did not become an affluent human being. Jesus did not merely become a poor human being. He became the least of human beings – a slave. The contrast is striking! The one who was the highest being became the lowest being!
3. He humbled himself and became obedient unto death. Jesus humbled himself. In the New Testament times, humility was the virtue of a slave. The paradox is clear – the slave who is without freedom makes a free choice to be without freedom. This means that Jesus’ obedience was not merely an afterthought. ‘Obedience’ suggests being subject to someone. Jesus, who shared equality with God, freely and deliberately surrendered his divine status and became obedient to God and God’s plan of salvation. Divine wisdom had ordained a sacrificial death for Jesus. He was obedient unto that sacrificial death. Till his very last breath, till the very last drop of blood was shed, from the womb to his tomb, Jesus remained obedient.
As we enter Holy Week, we must remember that Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, and became obedient unto death, for our redemption. Jesus self-emptying must inspire our self-emptying. The sacrifice of his freedom must inspire us to cherish the freedom Christ won for us by his self-sacrificing death. His slavery and death must inspire our obedience to God. This Holy Week, Jesus redemptive actions compel us bend our knees and confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord.”
-Fr. Satish Joseph