HANGING ON FOR DEAR LIFE…
HANGING ON FOR DEAR LIFE…
Have you ever ridden on the subway system in New York? Or maybe the TUBE in London? The train is constantly stopping to allow huge numbers of people to load onto the small train to make their way to wherever their destination may be. There are usually so many people on the train that I very often lose sight of whoever I stepped on the train with as bodies have just wedged themselves between us. I remember one time, I had no idea what my stop was and my husband had been lost in the sea of what seemed like the entire population of Manhattan on our car. When I finally found a way to see just his head, I started signing to him to find out what our stop was (mind you, my husband does not know sign language and makes fun of me incessantly when I try to use it as a means of communication). I finally just yelled across the train like the foreigner I was and the entire train turned to see who the clear tourist was. #noshame.
Now, if you’re lucky enough to snatch a seat before others beat you to it, congratulations! But for those passengers who weren’t so lucky, every few feet there are these poles that people can hold onto so they don’t go flying down the center aisle as the train abruptly starts on its way again. So, as soon as someone steps on the train, the first thing they do is reach for one of these stabilizers. They GRASP onto it. Why? Because they need it. They reach for it to maintain their “uprightness”… their correct position. It is what keeps them from losing their stability. Those that fail to do so are normally found lying on the ground, color flooding to their cheeks as they stumble back to their feet…having lost the battle between themselves and Mr. Newton.
This idea of “grasping” onto something is usually the concept that comes to mind when we see Philippians 2:6.
This passage has been used by some, to try and explain that Jesus was less than God the Father. I know what some of you are saying, “Kayla, no one would say that.” And if you do say that, you may want to consider this a wake-up call. It could be that you’re spending too much time within the walls of your church building because many people out in the world believe that. Many believe that Jesus is not on par with an almighty god at all, but merely a good man who lived an honorable life of teaching and service. And what’s worse is that there are several “Christian” faiths that will, in fact, say just that. Jehovah’s Witnesses are probably the most famous, but in today’s age of progressive Christianity and new age philosophy, there are many that will allow any number of gods to be leveled equally with Jesus. You see, you don’t actually have to simply say that Jesus is a step below God to align with this heresy, but believing that the Son is equal to ANY other god is to align yourself with this kind of thinking…therefore, lowering Him below His rightful place of Godhood.
This is hardly a new idea. Some really hip people in skinny jeans may approach you with a “new way of thinking about Jesus” (love my fashionistas) and tell you that it is, but “there is nothing new under the sun.” The church has been dealing with this way of thinking for centuries. Why can’t we figure this thing out? Why is it so hard for us to understand? Probably because it is foreign to our minds that Jesus could fully exist in two completely different forms. We just physically cannot comprehend how he can be both of those things at the same time. How can He be fully God and fully man?? Answer- I have no idea, but scripture says He can. But the church itself has been trying to figure out how to verbalize it and understand it since the time of Constantine! (You’ve seen DaVinci code…believe nothing of what it says, but you know the reference) This was the idea that was being taught against way back then! A group of men were teaching that Jesus was less than fully God but instead was created BY God to accomplish His work. Constantine brought them all together to study the scriptures and determine the theology of the church moving forward because Constantine understood that unity of the faith was of the utmost importance… thus, the Council of Nicea…. yes, I’m a nerd, but it’s important! It’s important to understand that these men didn’t gather in order to DECIDE or CREATE this theology. Instead, their purpose was to study the scriptures, Hebrew/Greek culture, and language to UNCOVER the Bible’s original intent. In the end, they came to the conclusion that God, through His Word very clearly taught that Jesus was God in human form… even though, it was hard to reconcile to our finite minds, that God’s ability and character were infinite. And simply because we couldn’t fully understand this tenant of Jesus’ duality, didn’t mean that God couldn’t accomplish it (<- this one’s hard for a lot of people).
Although this was the Councils conclusion, there are many who disagree. Some say, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped..” is evidence that even Jesus understood that His place was below that of God the Father. After all, if you’re not grasping something, you are releasing it, so Jesus was releasing his Godhood right? But what does the rest of the passage say?
Jesus is the name that is above every name. EVERY NAME. This automatically squashes a discussion about equality with other deities. But what about equality with the Father? “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” I am not suggesting that the Heavenly Father will bow to His Son. What I am suggesting is that Jesus’ name here is given the same respect in every realm of creation as the Father himself…absolute dominion. At the mention of his name, ALL will bow. Interesting to note that the Father has no name. He has called Himself simply I AM and although He has been given many names that describe His character, he has no name. He is simply I AM.
Interesting to note that the Father has no name. He has called Himself simply I AM and although He has been given many names that describe His character, he has no name. He is simply I AM.
Let’s go back to the train. Say that I am one of the lucky ones that rushed onto the train right as the doors opened and found an empty seat. When I take that seat, I no longer need to hold onto the poles that stabilize those that are standing. Why?
You do not grasp that which you do not need.
Those passengers need the stabilization of that structure to keep them in proper standing position, but Jesus did not need to grasp His godhood to maintain proper position with God as God.
Of course, scripture says He humbled himself, but it never says He ceased to be God. Only that He took the form of a servant. What does that mean? The Greek word used there for “grasped” is harpagmos. Its original meaning is “something seized by robbery” and later came to mean “something clutched, embraced or prized”. Scripture is not saying that Jesus relinquished His godhood here, but actually that He always had it. Never in the history of the world has anyone been arrested because they walked into their living room and walked off with their own television. Why? Because you can’t steal (harpagmos) that which is already yours. What it is saying is that He did not prioritize His fame and glory over that of God the Father’s.
One last analogy: Growing up I had a lot of friends that came over to my house often. We had a fairly large house and my parents wanted the house to be the place where all the kids liked to hang out, so it was always full of crazy teenagers jumping in the pool or playing in the game room upstairs. Some of my friends grew pretty attached to my parents as many of them came from broken homes for one reason or the other. Some of my friends even came up with pet names for my dad; DP, Doc, Pops, and so on. But I never felt threatened by these terms of endearment. Why? Because there was no need to be possessive of something I could not lose. My dad was my dad. No matter how close anyone else got with my dad, I would always be his daughter. Not because of anything that I did, but because of who I am. I do not need to clutch to that identity or strive for it. I do not have to take it or have the ability to lose it…it is just who I am. I do not GRASP to be my dad’s kid. It is not something that can be loosened from me.
Jesus did not need to GRASP for equality with God because He already possessed it. It was not something He needed to hold tight to or fight to maintain. He was not afraid of finding Himself on the proverbial train floor because He didn’t hold tightly to the subway poles. He is equal in His nature by who He is not what He does. You do not grasp what you do not need.