Day Twenty-Eight: All Part of the Plan

December 28, 2019
By Vicki Bunke

By Vicki Bunke
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature  of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV)

An old legend tells of a man in Baghdad who sent his servant to the market. Before long the servant came back, pale and trembling. In great agitation, he said to his master, “Down in the marketplace I bumped into someone in the crowd, and when I turned around, I saw Death. She looked at me with a threatening gesture. Please lend me your horse, for I must hasten to avoid her. I will ride to Samarra and there I will hide, and Death will not find me.”

The master lent him the horse, and the servant galloped away. Later the master went down to the market and saw Death standing in the crowd. He asked her, “Why did you frighten my servant this morning with a threatening gesture?”

“That was not a threatening gesture,” Death said, “It was a look of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra!”

The point of this story, of course, is that nobody can outrun death. No one has been born who is not subject to the authority of death. No one, that is, except Jesus. Jesus was sinless. Death had no claim on him. When death called, he could have ignored it. Yet as Paul tells us in today’s scripture, Jesus was obedient to death – death on a cross.

“He humbled himself,” Paul writes. In addition to manifesting his servant form in becoming man, he went farther and made himself lower than any man. He humbled himself to serve all men with the supreme service – the gift of his life on our behalf.

It is easy to default to a sanitized version of Christmas. Our Christmas nativity scenes show Baby Jesus sleeping in a manger, and everything is delightful and charming. However, Jesus came to be a servant to man. He came to die on a cross for our sins. Jesus made a calculation in eternity, an eternal decision, to leave the glory and safety of heaven and come to earth to be a humble servant to humankind.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem to die in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, his death was not the inevitable end of another human life. Nor was it the tragic climax of an unfortunate story. It was part of a plan. It was part of the plan from the beginning.

Perhaps death feels close to you this holiday season. Perhaps you just received some bad news. Perhaps this will be one more Christmas without a loved one, and their absence feels as powerful as their presence once did. If so, remember that you are not alone. Jesus, too, faced the reality of death. But the best news you will ever hear is this: it was not the end of the story.