[Christ Jesus] humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.
If you have a few moments, go to YouTube and pull up the opening scene from the movie Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe. The movie is set during the days of the Roman Empire. The opening scene depicts a battle between the Roman army and enemies threatening the Roman Empire’s frontier. Watch closely. One contrast between the two sides is striking. The enemies attacking the Roman soldiers are furious and aggressive in their fighting, but they are unorganized and scattered. The Roman soldiers, on the other hand, are just as aggressive, but they maintain their discipline, they keep themselves in order, they remain obedient to their commander. And it is their character of obedience and discipline that carries the day.
The verse of God’s Word for us today is from the apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Very likely, many of the individuals who initially read this letter knew battle scenes as pictured in the movie Gladiator. The town of Philippi, you see, was a place where Roman soldiers went to live in their retirement. From their own military careers, they knew all about the discipline of putting the needs of others before their own. And they knew all about obedience.
Along comes this letter from Paul—a letter they receive with joy as he talks to them about Jesus, their new-found Savior from sin. So great is Jesus’ love for them, Paul says, that even though he was in very nature God, Jesus chose to set aside the full use of his power and to live as one of them, to live and die as their perfect Substitute.
And to do this, Jesus knew that half-measures would not do. As their Substitute, he knew he could not demonstrate obedience to his Heavenly Father only to a certain point. His perfect obedience on their behalf would have to go all the way. It would have to go all the way to death—even death on a cross. And every retired Roman soldier reading Paul’s letter knew exactly what that entailed.
In this letter, Paul’s readers began to see the bottomless depth of God’s grace. They began to see the path of obedience that their Savior was willing to walk for them.
We can too.
Lord Jesus, help me to see. Help me to see what you were willing to do to save me from sin and make me your own. Amen.