Philippians 2:8 And being found in appearance as a man, [Christ Jesus] humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!
One of my first jobs as a young graduate civil engineer with Sydney Water (then: Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board) involved walking for three kilometres through a live sewer to investigate the decay of the cement lining of a 5ft (1.52m) diameter pipe which was part of the Northern Suburbs Ocean Outfall Sewer (NSOOS). By God’s grace I was only about 5’6” tall so i didn’t have to bend over very much as I trod carefully along the slippery slimy curved bottom of the pipe, and it wasn’t the peak-flow time so the raw sewage was only flowing at about halfway up my gumboots.
We gained access to the sewer by climbing down a manhole. As I embraced this experience, I thought of Someone else who came down a ‘man-hole’ into the ‘sewer’ of this world to rescue me from sin and death. He was wiling to leave behind the holiness of his eternal dwelling place in Heaven to become a man like me, to share my dwelling place in the ‘sewer’ of earthly life. I remembered Isaiah’s confession: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;” (Isaiah 64:6a), where the Hebrew words translated ‘filthy rags’ are referring to menstrual cloths. So this faithful prophet saw that, compared with God’s holiness, even our ‘righteous’ acts are something destined for the sewer!
Therefore, just coming down the man-hole at Christmas would have been degrading enough for the Son of God, but then at Easter, to become ‘obedient to death – even death on a cross’ – for me, a sinner – would have been the ultimate expression of selfless love. “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count as loss and pour contempt on all my pride. … … Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all” (Isaac Watts). “How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure, that he should send his only Son to make a wretch his treasure. … … Behold the Man upon a cross, my sin upon HIS shoulders; ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers. It was my sin that held him there until it was accomplished; his dying breath has brought me life – I know that it is finished” (Stuart Townend).
– Bruce Christian