The “kenosis” hymn in Philippians 2:5-11 raises the interesting question of “how much Godhood did Jesus give up?”
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became 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,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father– Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV)
Jesus’ “kenosis”– His “making Himself nothing”– was a choice that meant giving up His personal prerogatives in preference for God’s purposes. In the Incarnation, Jesus set aside His divine powers, choosing to rely upon the Spirit as His guide instead of falling back on His own divinity, deferring to the Father rather than acting on His own.
Although Jesus frequently demonstrated awareness of people’s thoughts in line with popular expectations of a mind-reading Messiah, He more commonly displayed a very human lack of knowledge about many things. (Some have even argued Jesus’ “kenosis” was such that He had to be told He was the Son of God.)
Our point here though is that Jesus was not a “superman” disguised as a human being. His humanity was thoroughly genuine and thoroughly relevant to everyday Christian life, truly subject to temptation yet overcoming, truly Son of God yet exposed to withering temptations in the wilderness and in the Garden.
Although Jesus might possibly have been convinced of His secure sinlessness on theoretical grounds, experientially His anguish truly must have been like drops of blood. But He didn’t escape pain and wrenching emotion by retreating from humanness into divinity. Instead, He persevered and became a true exemplar for every believer, not through His own divine power, but by relying upon the Spirit for vital fellowship with the Father — something every Christian can do.
When Jesus criticized His disciples for their weakness,
He spoke with the authority of experience.
Appreciating the “kenosis” of Phil 2:5-11 makes Jesus immediately relevant to all Christians who likewise struggle with temptations, especially the special temptations that come with emptying themselves in the pursuit of God’s purposes.