While studying Philippians 2:5-11 for the Easter message I was honored to preach at two Christ Fellowship Miami campuses, the Lord stirred my heart. I thought I would share a few thoughts from the one phrase “even to death on a cross.”
Jesus displayed deep humility in His birth as well as in life, from entering the world through a woman He created to washing the feet of the disciples that He trained. While choosing not to continually display the fullness of His attributes was indeed humbling, His death was even more debasing than we might imagine. The apostle Paul said, when writing of Jesus’ death to the Christians in Philippi, “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8).
From both human and spiritual vantage points, the cross is the pinnacle of Christ’s humility. There was simply no lower place He could go.
From a human perspective, Jesus bore excruciating and torturous pain. In fact, the word “excruciating” comes from the same root word for “cross.” The Romans who carried out the crucifixions in Jesus’ day intentionally designed crucifixion to be as painful as possible. The process from the flogging and carrying of one’s cross to hanging naked in front of a crowd was a ruthless and barbaric way to die. The Romans stripped the individual of his dignity in death. They did not execute their own by crucifixion, no matter how vile the criminal; it was too humiliating. Yet Jesus as our perfect sacrifice placed Himself on the cross, a violent and bloody instrument of torture, because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
From a spiritual perspective, the humiliation is even worse. Our pure and holy God became sin to take away our sin (2 Cor. 5:21). He became my lust, pride, selfishness, and anger in order to give me His righteousness. As He became our sin, He experienced hell on the cross for us. Church Father Thomas Aquinas once wrote of hell as having both “pain of loss” and “pain of sense.” Jesus experienced the pain of loss as the Father turned away from the Son, causing Him to yell out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” He experienced the pain of sense as He bore the full measure of God’s holy wrath (Isa. 53:6). It took six hours on the cross for Jesus to satisfy the wrath of the Father. It would take me an eternity in hell.
Thankfully, Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even to death on a cross.
Because of His love for you and for me.