‘…being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross… to the glory of God the Father.’ (Philippians 2:7–8,11 NRSV)
Our previous reflection showed that the Son emptied himself in order to serve, save and reconcile us to the Father. But we also see in the Bible that the Son empties himself in order to glorify and fulfil the will of the Father.
We see this most clearly portrayed in the garden of Gethsemane. On this night of agony Jesus was terrified of what faced him and asked for any way to get out of what he had to go through. He knelt down and prayed,
“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” (Matthew 26:39)
A few moments later he prayed for a second time,
“My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” (v.42) Then we are told he prayed
‘for the third time, saying the same words.’ (v.44)
Jesus knew what it was like to not have his prayers answered in the way he would have wanted, but he was determined to be obedient to the Father.
This submission of Jesus to the will of the Father is highly kenotic; the Son is giving up his own desire to avoid suffering in order to fulfil the Father’s will to rescue us.
Now of course, it is also the will of the Son to redeem us, but at this point when he is confronted with the agony he has to face, Jesus has to empty himself of the natural human desire to save himself in order to fulfil this greater purpose.
The writer to the Hebrews refers to this incident in Gethsemane when he writes that Jesus learned obedience through this suffering:
‘In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered’. (Hebrews 5:7–8)
By perfectly submitting to the Father’s will Jesus undid Adam’s disobedience that tainted the human race, and as the Last Adam he
‘became the source of eternal salvation for all…’ (v.9)
Jesus, therefore, glorifies the Father by obediently and willingly facing death in order to fulfil the Father’s desire to redeem us.
Paul speaks of the glory that the Father receives at the end of the passage from Philippians chapter 2. He says that everyone will confess and enjoy the Lordship of Jesus ‘to the glory of God the Father.’
So ultimately Christ’s whole kenosis in becoming human and dying on the cross, as well as his subsequent exaltation and Lordship serve the purpose of glorifying the Father.
Father, to you be all glory now and forever.
Have a good week glorifying the Father.