The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
During the season of Lent the Church remembers our need for repentance. We humble ourselves and ask the Lord’s forgiveness again and again. Normally, then, we would have some trouble associating our passage from Ephesians 4:7-13 with such a season of penitence. Verse eight speaks of Jesus’ great victory in the resurrection and ascension. Verses 11-13 speak of the ongoing work of the Gospel, certainly great and blessed.
In verse nine the apostle makes an explanatory comment. The fact that Christ ascended requires that we understand he also descended. God the Son humbled himself. He descended. He laid down his glory, he laid down his power, he laid down life itself, for your benefit and my benefit.
People will often ask whether Ephesians 4:9 refers to Jesus’ descent into hell or simply to his life on earth. We cannot say with any confidence. The text in Greek is no clearer than the text in English. Paul’s emphasis is not on the actual location of “the lower parts of the earth” (NKJV), but on the fact that Jesus descended before ascending.
There is a tremendous call to repentance in this concept. Jesus laid aside the authority of God. He did it to take on the curse of death on behalf of sinful humans. He did it to take on my curse. He did it to take on your curse. Does this give us cause to rejoice? It certainly does. But at the same time, it should convict us of our own sin. Are we ready to lay down all our own status, prestige, power, and wealth for someone else? Are we ready to do so for our friends? Are we ready to do so for strangers? Are we ready to do so for enemies? Jesus does all this. He humbles himself in a way that not one of us would.
Lord, remind us this day of your humility. Guard our hearts from pride and arrogance. Even as you create in us a heart to lay down our lives for others, overcome us with our sinful desire to gain, to keep, to protect our interests. Remind us of the forgiveness you have secured. Let us walk in that forgiveness, knowing that you have loved us and that you love our neighbor. We pray that You, the one who fills all things, would use us in our world as your hands.
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