The God Who Suffered
Though He was God, . . . [Jesus] humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross (vv.6,8).
People tell me that you can turn any smoothie or shake into a snack loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. The idea is to sneak vegetables (spinach, cauliflower, kale, beets, or other healthy veggies) into the beverages of unsuspecting drinkers. They think they’re only imbibing their mango and honey treat, but they’re also downing green veggies. The beverage may be in the form of a smoothie, but the substance is something far different.
When the Scripture speaks of Jesus coming “in the form of God” and in “the form of a servant,” we might be tempted to think it means something similar to these smoothies that smuggle in nutrients (Philippians 2:6 ASV). A form, we surmise, offers the shape of something, but it may or may not be congruent with what’s actually contained inside. In Scripture, however, the formof something is the outward visibility of that thing’s true inner quality. In other words, the apostle Paul would say that the form of a smoothie should be 100-percent smoothie.
This means that when the Bible tells us that Jesus came in the form of God, it’s telling us that He is the physical manifestation of God. Jesus is what God looks like when God takes on human shape. And what shape was this? What form did Jesus inhabit? Jesus did not “cling to . . . His divine privileges” but rather “took the humble position of a slave” and “humbled Himself . . . and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (vv.6-8).
Jesus came in humility, suffering for the rescue of the world, because this is what God is like. Astoundingly, God is one who suffers for the cause of love and for the good of others. If God is to be true to Himself and take human shape, then Jesus is what He looks like.
Read Acts 17:1. Consider how all of Scripture points to Jesus, and ponder why the Messiah needed to suffer. What does the suffering Jesus reveal about God’s character?
If it was necessary for Jesus to suffer, what does this say to you about God? What does this say about our own experiences of suffering?