Pastor's Blog

Christ Who Empties

What is normal desired trajectory of a career? Think about it.

Often the career trajectory most people seek runs something like this:

  • start at the bottom
  • gain experience, expertise
  • seek advancement
  • attain promotion and/or greater influence
  • as much as possible, finish on top

Sounds about right, doesn't it? When this trajectory is not followed, don't we often wonder why? The Greek chorus chants in the background: "Unfulfilled potential. He was so promising. She never could get to the next level. Stalled. Ahh, what might have been."

The trajectory of Christ is exactly the opposite. He began in ultimate divine glory, lowered Himself to humanity, embraced the humiliation of servanthood and died a (seemingly) ignoble, powerless death. His was a trajectory which went from the praises of heaven to the silence of a cold grave.

But, continue thinking about it.

How often does our "normal" and "expected" career trajectory deepen our souls and nourish our relationships? Especially in our own era, how many soul-disquieting compromises will we make pursuing our precious "normal"?

Office politics. Looking over our shoulders. Job insecurity which (seemingly) forces us to harden ourselves against developing close ties. Transparency replaced by guardedness. Trust replaced by anxiety. Who is an ally? Who needs to be cultivated and who can be ignored? It all becomes so second-nature. We begin to see each other not as persons but as objects. Even the joy of pursuing our chosen interests and developing our skills gets overwhelmed: 

  • "I don't really want to get that degree, but if I don't I'll fall behind."
  • "I don't really want to make that trip or attend that conference, but I need to earn points, or I need to be seen: it will help my career."
  • "I don't feel good about the direction we're headed - it doesn't smell right. But I've got to be a team player ... or else. The family will understand."

Not Jesus.

He was free. Having released Himself from protecting His status, there was nothing He feared losing. He could not be threatened. Taunts and insults bounced off Him like ping pong balls off a brick wall. His heart was not bound to self-preservation. His personality was not addicted to being important. He had no place to lay His head. He washed the feet of His personal betrayer. With what could He be threatened? Being last in line? Didn't get a raise this year? Get passed by for promotion? Someone else's name on the bottom of the sale's contract? A transfer to obscurity? Demotion?

Jesus made an ultimately powerful decision affecting the lives of millions. He made it before He began His "career." He chose to love and live His entire life for the benefit of others, for the glory of God. He removed "Himself" from consideration. He chose the downward trajectory to eternal glory. 

Remember how Jesus prayed for "the cup" to be taken away from Him? (Luke 22.42) The "cup" was God's wrath against sin. But His higher priority was accomplishing the will of God and so He drank that cup.

But, if you can visualize it, would you please consider this image? 

The cup presented to Him had formerly been filled with the glory Jesus had enjoyed with the Father before the world was formed. (John 17.24) Filled to the brim! There was none like it in all of heaven itself. None possessed it and none could drink of it but Jesus alone: God the Son. And yet there had come a time, an instant of terrible and awesome silence which blanketed the halls of heaven, when Jesus had taken His cup and ... He emptied it.

What was ultimately precious and His alone: He poured it out.

And if you can visualize it (please, use your imagination) in the Garden as He prayed God comes to Him with this same cup: His and His alone. But now, what fills His cup is not eternal glory but just and righteous wrath. This He did not pour out. He did empty it, though. He emptied it by drinking it to the last bitter drop. 

"Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father."

Posted by Tim Alexander with

Christ Song!

How did Jesus comes to be worshipped? Amazing when you think of it. 

It was not as though the people of Jesus' day lacked gods, or a god, to worship. In most cities one couldn't walk a quarter mile without seeing an image, or a reference of some kind, to a god. The veneration of god(s) could be observed etched in footpaths, painted over doorways, celebrated in an enormous variety of statuary ranging from small sconces on walls to impressive monuments dominating market squares. And then, too, there were the temples.

Yet in less than ten generations after His death, overwhelming hundreds of generations of practical piety, the worship of Jesus dominated religious culture. Another ten generations and the worship of Jesus defined what worship meant in all of culture.

The son of a carpenter from a rural slum in a provincial backwater, having never journeyed more than a hundred miles from the place of his birth, preaching his message in a tongue thought barbarous by the powerful, executed as a criminal after being betrayed by his own people: this Man is worshipped as King of kings and Lord of lords.

How does this happen? The ancient "gods" were thought to have descended in comet brightness from the sky, or to have emerged from mysterious subaltern recesses. Perhaps they had supernatural strength or flew the sky upon winged horses. Perhaps they were shape shifters; now a lion, now an old woman, now a hurricane at sea. Perhaps they produced children in debauched excess. 

Not Jesus of Nazareth. Not Jesus the Christ. He was came embodying humility and lowliness. He lived with a disturbingly quiet, peaceful, assurance. He never rushed. He never fell behind. He never had to prove himself by outlandish deeds of daring-do. He chose to be a servant.

He ... lived. Importantly, he lived ... perfectly. 

His death had unequaled, one-of-a-kind, significance precisely because of who he was and how he lived. His was not just another death. He willed himself to walk into a death he not only did not deserve, but a death for the sake of others who rejected him.

So terribly, majestically un-like the notions attached to the "gods" of his day, Jesus died confidently in relative anonymity. He knew he would be raised from the dead. At the time his death caused a local stir but not a ripple across the larger world. Yet his resurrection proved the uniqueness and trans-formative power of both the life he lived and the death he died. His story had to be told. His story compelled either acceptance or rejection: there could be no middle ground.

Either he really was ... and is ... King of king and Lord of lords or he was nothing. Less than nothing, because, without his resurrection, he was a lunatic who needlessly got himself killed and duped people who believed him.  

But we worship today because the power of His life, His death and His resurrection have proven irresistible, still resonating like un-ending thunder would demand our attention. Who can ignore Him except by willful ignorance?

He is our story. He is our song. 

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