The self-emptying of Jesus’ divine attributes is known in theological terms as the kenosis of Jesus, or the divine kenosis. Jesus limited himself during his time on earth to the life of a human being. In others words, he really was human!
For many this can be quite hard to understand if the Jesus we grew up with was either plastic on a cross or simply a nice man with a sheep over his shoulders, gently giving out religious platitudes for our consideration.
Or, as one church leader said: “People think of Jesus as a marginalised Galilean peasant hippie in a dress, rockin’ out to the Spice Girls, driving around in the Middle East in a Cabriolet hoping to meet nice people to do aromatherapy with while drinking herbal tea.”
The truth found in the Bible teaches us that Jesus thirsted, hungered, laughed, got sad, told jokes, went to parties, enjoyed friendships. Yet Jesus lived completely sinless. He did this as an example (1 Peter 2:21-23) so that we could walk after and follow him. Jesus showed us how to be fully human, dependent on the Holy Spirit, enjoying relationship with his Father to fulfill his mission. We can also belong and fulfill his mission. We can be fully human if we follow his footsteps.
For many of us this might sound like nice Biblical rhetoric, but the reality of becoming nothing (or powerless) is far, far from us. For many, the thought of becoming powerless is terrifying. Maybe the thought of being trapped, unable to escape a childhood bully or abuser, still resonates deeply in our psyche. Maybe we want “godhood” with without revisiting our “childhood.” Maybe we accept that powerlessness is okay for Jesus, but not for me.
The Bible actually teaches God’s power is truly made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). While I fully adhere to everything “Westminster” in my confession of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, do I really know him in the powerlessness of his crucifixion? (Philippians 3:10).
In other words, maybe there is more power in powerlessness that we realise. In fact it was while we were powerless to do anything about cleaning our sinful hearts, Jesus Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
Jesus displayed incredible power by becoming nothing and powerlessly dying on the cross. Leading up to his death, he submitted to the process of betrayal, arrest, humiliation, torture and final agonising murder silently (see Isaiah 53:7).
By entrusting himself to his Father’s will, Jesus has made a way for millions to be empowered by his death and life from the dead. There really is a beauty and power in powerlessness.
Beware, dear follower, that you do not bypass and avoid the feelings of powerlessness. One Austrian Bible school student hated the thought of being powerless. His father was both physically and emotionally abusive to the young man in his formative years. Later, in his public speeches, this Austrian man said, “My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. ... As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.”
With the world at his feet, this young Austrian used his poor understanding of Jesus and the pain of an abusive father to add fuel to the fires of hatred of the largest holocaust of last century. The young man was Adolf Hitler.
Why not revisit our horrors at not being in control? How about we take Jesus’ powerlessness as a profound example in the face of injustice and suffering and follow his example.
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:21-23 (NIV).
– Steve Dunne, Pastor Richmond Baptist Church