The Divine Servant (Phil. 2: 5- 8)
The Lord Jesus, under the divine purpose and at His own divine pleasure, surrendered Himself, saying, “Lo, I come”, (Heb. 10: 7). For the great ends of both God’s glory and the sinner’s peace He had taken a bondman’s form, and accordingly in due time He was made “in [the] likeness of men” and went on in a course of self humbling even as far as “[the] death of [the] cross.”
On that course we see Him through life. He hides His glory, “the form of God”, under “a bondman’s form”. He never sought honour from men. He honoured the Father that had sent Him, and not Himself. He would not make Himself known, nor show Himself to the world. All this belonged to the “form” He had taken, and gets its perfect illustration in the histories or narratives of the Gospels.
Under the form of a tributary, He hid the form of the Lord of the fulness of the earth and the sea, (see Ps. 50: 10–12; 95: 5). He was asked for tribute—at least Peter was asked if his master did not pay it, (Matt. 17: 24). The Lord declared His freedom; but, in case He should offend, He pays the custom for Peter and Himself. Yet who, all the while was this? None less than He of whom it had been written “The earth is Jehovah’s, and the fulness thereof”, (Ps. 24: 1); thus He commands a fish from the sea to bring Him that very piece of money which He then passed over to the receivers. What an instance of the precious mystery that He who was “in the form of God” and “did not esteem it an object of rapine to be on an equality with God” could thus command the creatures of God’s hand as all His own—that this same One took on Himself “a bondman’s form”! What glory breaks through the cloud in that passing and seemingly trivial occurrence! It was all between Him and Peter; but it was a manifestation of “the form of God” from beneath “a bondman’s form”. The fulness of the earth was tributary to Him at the very moment when He was consenting to pay tribute to others! Similarly, on another occasion, as the unnoticed guest at a marriage, He spread the feast, not merely as though He had been the bridegroom, but as the very Creator of all that furnished it. There again He “manifested His glory; and his disciples believed on Him”, (John 2: 11).
Again we read of Him, that He would not strive, nor cry out, nor lift up His voice in the street. He would not break the bruised reed, but rather withdraw Himself. All because He had taken “a bondman’s form”. Accordingly, on that very occasion, the Scripture is quoted, “Behold my servant, whom I have chosen”, (Matt. 12: 18).
Show us a sign from heaven, was another temptation to exalt Himself, (Matt. 16: 1). The Pharisees here were trying Him, as the devil had tried Him before when he would have Him cast down from the edge of the temple, (Matt. 4: 5,6); and as His brethren were doing when they said “manifest thyself to the world”, (John 7: 4). So what said the perfect Servant in answer to these Pharisees? That no sign should be given but that of Jonas, (Matt. 16: 4)—a sign of humiliation, a sign that the world and the prince of this world were apparently to get advantage over Him for a moment, instead of such a sign as would awe and silence the world into subjection to Him.
Marvellous indeed are these glimpses of God’s perfect Servant. David and Paul, standing, like Moses and Elias on the mount of transfiguration, reflect their Master thus hiding Himself. David slew the lion and the bear, and Paul was caught up into the third heaven; but neither of them spoke of these things. What lovely reflections of the perfect Servant we see in them! Yet they, and all like them found in Scripture, or among the saints, are more distant from the great Original than we have measures to measure. He hid “the form of God” under “a bondman’s form”. The Lord Jesus was the strength of David when he killed the lion and the bear, and He was the Lord of that heaven to which Paul was caught up; but He lay under the form of one who had “not where he may lay his head”, (Matt. 8: 20).
So on the top of the mount of transfiguration, and again at the foot of it. On the top of it, in the sight of His elect, for a passing moment, He was “the Lord of Glory”; at the foot of it He was “Jesus only”, (see A.V.), charging them not to tell the vision to any till the Son of man was risen from among the dead, (Matt. 17: 1–9).
Observe Him again in the ship during the storm, (Mark 4: 35–41). He was there as a tired labouring man to whom sleep was sweet. Such was His manifested form. But underneath lay “the form of God”. He arose, and as the Lord who gathers the wind in His fists, and binds the waters in a mantle, He rebuked the sea into a calm (Prov. 30: 4; Mark 4: 39). Such is the mystery (and wonder) of his Person!