Philippians 2:9-11 “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.”
Sometimes Christians complain that department stores are disrespecting Jesus if they substitute “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas.” Of course Jesus is the reason for the season. Of course the stores are all too happy to make a buck off his birthday. But I don’t know that Jesus is particularly pleased when people who don’t even believe in him reference his title in their season’s greetings. He never made it his mission to become a seasonal slogan. If Christians want to defend his honor, they might start by being careful not to use his name as an exclamation point. Then let’s find the courage to go and tell someone who doesn’t know, why Jesus means so much to us.
In Paul’s world, just talking about Jesus in public could land you in prison. That’s where he was writing this letter to the Christians in Philippi. In our world, there are still over 50 countries where talking about him in public can get you arrested. Should that surprise us in a world that crucified him when he visited the first time?
Trends and statistics for Christians can be depressing. Every recent study indicates between 70 and 80 percent of young people raised in the church will leave it by age 30. Society at large tries to ignore Jesus or remove him from public life. It is easy to fear that Christianity is dying. Maybe the faith Jesus started is a failure after all.
Paul has two answers for our fears. “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.” You can’t take away the honor Jesus has already been given. Not only did God raise him from the dead. In response to his sacrifice for our sins, God has given him the highest position and most respected name of all. Jesus may have been executed when he was here. The people he left behind may struggle. But those who continue to trust in him need to know that they are playing on the winning team.
And when we reach the next life, where Jesus already enjoys these honors, no one will be able to deny his greatness: “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.” Note that Paul does not say that all these knees bowing to Jesus do so because they believe in him as his people. He is not predicting a mass conversion.
In the end even his enemies will have to acknowledge him. Jewish priests and Roman soldiers mocked the idea he was some sort of king while he hung on the cross. They will all bow down to him and call him Lord. Literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of people I have met have smiled and told me they aren’t interested in church or religion at the door. They will all bow down to him and call him Lord.
And we will be there, too–our faith confirmed, our doubts dismissed. But when we bow, we will bow as royal guests of the King, saved by his humble grace. For this, God the Father himself exalts him.