‘Obedient unto death…’
Phil. 2: 5-11 [Part 6]
The Old Testament book of Isaiah is oftentimes called the fifth Gospel, because of its vision of justice, its words of comfort, and its oracles foreshadowing the coming of Christ as found, for example, in the prophecy of the virgin birth. Isaiah’s most important contribution to our understanding of the Christ hymn in Philippians is his portrayal in four prophetic songs about a shadowy figure called the ‘Suffering Servant.’
In the our study of the hymn so far, we have contemplated the nature, the ‘who,’ of the God-Man Jesus Christ. Equal to God in the form of God’s image and glory, He emptied Himself, taking on our likeness as the New Adam. Truly man. But not merely man. And He became so not to be greater than us all, but to be a servant to us. Clearly He did this to set an example.
But He said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves (Luke 22:25-26)
Yet we must not stop here. Instead, we must probe more deeply the question: Why did God become man? Why was it, as the hymn tells us, that
He humbled Himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
To answer the question why, the apostles from the earliest times appealed to their understanding of Christ as the coming of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant
…He was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on Him,
and by His wounds we are healed.
On the road between Gaza and Jerusalem, Philip met a God-seeking eunuch from Ethiopia who was puzzling over the character of the servant in the book of Isaiah. ‘About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’ (Acts 8:34). Upon which Philip proclaimed the good news about Jesus.
In becoming man, Christ fulfilled the role and mission foreshadowed by Isaiah’s servant who, though innocent and without sin, atoned for our sins. He poured Himself out unto ‘death on a cross.’ The Servant guides us to the ultimate answer as to why God became man.
For us and our salvation