Arland Williams was just another passenger on Air Florida flight 90. On a frigid January day in 1982, he, along with 74 other passengers, were flying from Washington D.C. to Fort Lauderdale, Florida-- except the plane never really took off.
Within minutes a helicopter from the nearby Park Service sped to the site, searching for survivors. That’s when the pilot spotted Arland floating near the plane’s tail. The chopper dropped a line. Arland caught it and handed it off to a flailing stewardess. She clung to the rope as the chopper dragged her safely through the icy waters and onto the shore. It quickly returned to crash-site and dropped another line right next to Arland. He caught it and passed it to another flight attendant. This man took the line, grabbed a co-worker, and held on as the chopper dragged them both safely to shore.
When all five passengers had been saved, the chopper finally returned to fetch Arland. However, the pilot discovered the wreckage had sunk below the icy water, dragging Arland with it.
The pilot knew he could save Arland Williams. That is why he dropped a lifeline three separate times. Yet, each time the rope came down, Arland laid aside his personal interests and cared for the interests of others— even when it meant putting the lives of others ahead of his own life.
Would you do the same? I am not talking about saving lives from a plane wreckage. Rather, would you put aside your self-interests, your opinions, your pride, in order to put the needs of others first?
The human heart struggles to consider others better than itself. If you think looking into your heart and hoping to discover new methods to be more humble, then you are looking in the wrong place. God exalts Jesus for you to Imitate Your King’s Humility. See him serve you, so that you seek to exalt others.
That’s what you see and sing about on Palm Sunday. Jesus knows the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified (John 12:23). He rides into Jerusalem on Sunday and in just five short days he will be crucified outside of Jerusalem. Even though he knows what will happen by the end of the week, he still rides on.
Our reading today tells you why. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. You are told that, while in heaven, the Son of God makes a choice. His hands reach up and touch the golden crown on his head. Fingers seize it, lift it off, and lay this crown down gently on his throne. He removes the golden sash from around his chest and exchanges his white robe for swaddling cloths. He is not looking for a throne in a palace, but lies in a cattle feed-trough in a barn. Jesus grows up in a town called ‘Nazareth’— a town considered too insignificant for anyone prominent to come out of. He teaches the Word of God, but still listens as priests, who study the Scriptures, tell him, God’s Son, that his teachings are wrong. Jesus chooses to make no use of his supreme power as God, so that he could descend to the social status of humble carpenter.
Why would he do any of this? Why would the King of the universe give up the splendors of heaven and refuse to punish the arrogant who so seemingly deserve it? Jesus takes on the nature of a servant so that he can live under God’s commandments. He lives obedient to them all in order to win eternal life for you. So, here’s the question: Do you Imitate Your King’s Humility?
Did you catch that in our reading? Verse 5 commands: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. This is not an option or suggestion; God gives a command— and not just a one-time command, but a command that is to be done every single day. Your attitude must always imitate this self-giving attitude of Jesus— today, tomorrow, this week, next week— even right now! Never complain that you did not get your way— that someone else receives your recognition… that you have less time for yourself because you volunteered… never complain that your adult children must put your needs ahead of their own families. Your attitude should reflect working together, not by being a know-it-all who dominates group projects and is unwilling to compromise. With Easter just a week away, it means seeking the spiritual benefit of others— filling friends and family with the answers to eternal life, even if it means putting your feelings at risk. Do you constantly Imitate Your King’s Humility just like Jesus serves you?
Searching our hearts for new methods to become humble is not the answer. Our hearts want praise. They want people to serve us! Then they belittle and insult those who hurt us. Our hearts will even have the audacity to bark at God: “Why be humble, God? Why listen to you?” Hearts not focused on the King’s humility, will only seek is best for itself.
That is why our reading can say: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. Humility does not start with you; it starts with Jesus serving you.
So, your King lays aside his glorious power so that he might exalt you forever. Jesus does not seek wealth in worldly riches— like a palace, or money, or a career, or tablets and smartphones. His heart finds true wealth in putting God first. Jesus does not thump his chest or boast about his abilities— making sure everyone praises his carpentry skills or his knowledge of Scripture. He uses his talents to serve the sick, fill the spiritually empty, and comfort the heartbroken and depressed. Jesus has every opportunity to annihilate every stubborn argument of the pompous religious know-it-alls (and not to mention, to annihilate them), but he patiently seeks to change their hearts.
Jesus humble[s] himself and be[comes] obedient to death— even death on a cross! That’s right: “Obedient.” The King of Creation lays aside his pride as he marches to a death reserved for the worst of criminals. The King of Creation willingly endures a punishment reserved for those who are self-righteous. The King of Creation puts your interests ahead of his own as he gives his life for you.
When sin had been paid in full, God exalted him to the highest place… The body of Jesus does not lie in a tomb, decaying and forgotten; God raises him to life. He receives him from earth and into heaven. He places the golden crown back on his head. He seats him on heaven’s throne. He puts the scepter of judgment into his hand and authorizes him to return on the Last Day!
The exaltation continues! [God] gave him the name that is above every name 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 God the Father. The name “Jesus” means “he saves.” Attached to that name is Jesus’ work of saving you. Nothing else in all creation can bring you to heaven. No other idol, no object of love—not even your own efforts and choices can bring you to God. Only one name exalts you— and that name is “Jesus.”
All creation knows this. The angels in heaven already sing his unending praises. Believers on earth pray, praise, and give thanks and all credit to the King who lifted you out of the depths fo your sins. And yes— even the devil, every demon, and every nonbeliever will bend their knees on the Last Day and admit Jesus is the only true God.
See Jesus serve you! He gives up everything for a short time so that he can exalt you forever! What a reason to Imitate Your King’s Humility! What motivation to exalt others!
Be sure, God does not command humility so that you go home looking like a pretty good neighbor and a pretty good parent. He does not command humility so that he can see if you are a “real” Christian. Your motivation for such selfless serving comes because you have been served. In God’s eyes, you already are exalted to his side! You have the greatest status that can ever be given: “Child of God.” Since you have it all, there is no more status to be gained. So, you seek to exalt others.
You do. When your baby cries in the middle of the night, your first concern is to fill your child with comfort. So, you lay aside your extra hours of sleep so that your child may be filled with sleep. You may know someone who have limited mobility. Even though running to the store for someone else will use your free time, you gladly sacrifice that free time to help someone in need.
Yes, sometimes it will be difficult to consider others better than yourself. If you are holding a grudge right now, it may be difficult to swallow your pride and seek to reestablish relationships. If someone is always mean to you, always taking advantage of you, you may see nothing gain for yourself if you continue listening to them. Sometimes you want just a few more minutes to yourself. You know the good to do. You know how to bring about that good, but you do not feel empowered to put your pride aside and exalt others.
So, what do you do? Imitate Your King’s Humility. That’s right; Imitate Your King’s Humility. Before you consider the interests of others, reflect how Jesus considered your eternal interests. Your Jesus held no grudge against you; he did not pridefully seek to get the last word. He willingly endured the loss of sin so that you could win forever.
Focused on Jesus, your attitude reflects his. No longer do you ask : “What will I get back” or “What’s in it for me?” but serve as though you serve Jesus directly. No longer do you say: “Someone else will do it,” when you are capable of helping/serving/assisting. Give your talents and time to be a blessing to others. Seek to exalt others as Jesus exalted you. If you have a friend sitting home this Easter, invite them to worship with you. If you have a family member who has drifted from the life-saving Word, pray for the opportunity to share Jesus with them. Imitate Your King’s Humility as you seek to exalt others.
Just like Arland Williams. Five people survived that crash because Arland laid aside his personal interests and cared for the interests of others— even when it meant putting the lives of others ahead of his own life.
You will live in heaven because Jesus put your eternal interests first. Your King rides into Jerusalem, into death, and out of the Easter tomb to save you! See him serve you!
Imitate Your King’s Humility. Digging into your heart, trying to discover new methods to be more humble, is not the answer. God exalts Jesus for you to See him serve you, so that you seek to exalt others.