Friday, December 10, 2010

The Theodrama in Three Acts

The last couple months, particularly as advent has approached, I've thought (and written) about the incarnation. Several times I've been reminded of seven verses that concisely summarize the whole theodrama[1] of this present age from Genesis in the past to the future depicted in the apocalyptic books. They are hidden in the second chapter of Paul's letter to the Philippians and neatly divide into three sections.

Act I

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
-- Paul the Apostle (Philippians 2:5-7)
As the curtain rises, we see Jesus existing as part of God. His very nature was the same as God the Father's. Other translations say that He "did not consider it robbery to be equal with God." In other words, other beings considering Him to be God and worshiping Him as such did not in any way rob the Father, because both were God. Jesus was as much God as the Father was God. They were one in nature and being, although separate in expression and manifestation.[2]

This is in contrast to the devil who wanted that same worship and in so doing did rob God of His due. Satan was of a different, created nature than the uncreated manifestation of God as Jesus. In desiring the worship reserved only for God, he fell and was removed from his place in heaven.[3] Jesus however, even though He did deserve this adoration did not use it to His own advantage but set aside the glory He shared with the Father and took on the form of a created man.

Jesus was born to an unmarried woman in a culture where this was condemned. People scoff today at the thought of a virgin having a baby. People of Mary's time were no less ignorant of how babies are made than we are. I'm sure there was as much doubt then surrounding Mary's story of Jesus conception as there is today. Jesus not only took on the form of a human, but was born into a situation that was looked down on by the society around Him. He was not born in a place or to parents that would draw attention to who He was or the purpose for His coming.

The Maker of the Universe lived among His creation completely overlooked and ignored.

Act II

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
-- Paul the Apostle (Philippians 2:8)
Jesus did not stop with descending to earth to become a man. As a perfect, sinless man, He continued to pour Himself out and offered Himself as the sacrificial Lamb. Neither the Jewish religious leaders nor the Roman political class took Jesus' life from Him. He gave it willingly. Even on His last night on earth, when they came to arrest Him, just a minor release of His authority caused them to fall to the ground. There is no way they could have crucified Him if He did not allow it. In addition to His own restrained power, only their perfect obedience and discipline kept legions of angels from coming to His rescue.[4]

This center verse is the fulcrum of all history. Everything changes at the cross. The glorious, self-existant One empties Himself in humility, not just as a man, not just as a bastard son, but all the way to an execution as a naked, broken criminal. He did this out of love. He did this to bring redemption to mankind and all creation. His goal is to restore everything to the way it was when He first created it. He did this, with eyes firmly focused beyond the circumstances of that moment, on the future when all things will again be placed under His authority.[5]


Act III

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
-- Paul the Apostle (Philippians 2:8-11)
The final act in this story is yet future for us in history, but it's finished in the mind of God and He has told us the general shape of what it will look like. Some have said a third of scripture talks about the end of this age when Jesus will return and the Father will place all things under His authority. God has given us much information about the end times. It must be important to Him for us to know what will happen. There are many arguments about details and I do think some align better with scripture than others, but one thing is certain and we need to stay focused on: Jesus will reign and every being, whether angel or demon or human, will acknowledge His pre-eminence over all things. Some will do this willingly, having said to God throughout their lives "Thy will be done" and be accepted into His presence. Others will do so begrudgingly and God will say to them "thy will be done" as they are thrown out of His kingdom into everlasting darkness.[6]

So, in this time of year when we think about His first coming as a weak, vulnerable infant, let us remember the great heights from which He has come to us. Let us remember the incredible depths from which He has saved us. And let us join with the shepherds and wise men and bow the knee, worshiping Him as both Lord and Savior.

Further reading

1. Theodrama: Theo- meaning God. -drama meaning story. I.e. the story of God.
2. Isaiah 6:1-5
3. Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19; Revelation 12:7-10; Revelation 20:7-10; Ephesians 6:12
4. John 18:1-6; Matthew 26:47-53
5. John 3:16; Romans 8:19-23; Hebrews 12:1-2; Hebrews 1:1-12; Hebrews 2:5-16
6. Matthew 25:14-30; Matthew 25:31-48