The Place of Highest Honor

April 17, 2022

The Place of Highest Honor

Passage: Philippians 2:9 "Therefore God elevated Jesus to the place of highest honor."
Service Type:

Place of Highest Honor

A Sermon on Philippians 2:5-11 by Dwight A. Moody
Providence Baptist Church, Hendersonville NC


Many people have watched the video of the Ukrainian choir singing in a subway station on February 24, 2022. It was the first day of the invasion. The language is lost on us but the spirit, the devotion, the courage spread around the globe.

It reminds me of those second-century Christians in Asia described by the Roman official known as Pliny the Younger. He wrote the Roman emperor asking for assistance in conducting trials for Christians accused of seditious acts. His is the first pagan description of a Christian gathering, and it reads like this: “They gather before dawn on the first day of the week to sing hymns to Christ as if he were a God, to make a pledge to avoid certain behaviors, and to eat together an ordinary meal.”

Perhaps their song was this hymn right here in Philippians.

It celebrates the earthly life of Jesus. It remembers his death on the cross. and it rejoices in the resurrection and all that follows.  It describes Jesus, crucified, buried, and raised from the death, as receiving “the place of highest honor.”


I have said many times: the people who worship God and follow Jesus are singing people. “We sing because we are happy,” the old hymn says, “we sing because we are free.” Who was it that sang this in the Billy Graham gospel meetings? Ethel Waters!  That’s the kind of sermon illustration you get when you ask as an old man to be your preacher!!

The Word commands us to “encourage each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord. Always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Sing for joy and live with hope, we say here at Providence!

This spirit of thanksgiving and joy is what inspires our music: composition, arrangement, rehearsal, presentation, and remembering. When we gather, it is the most important element of our worship; because in singing, we praise God, we elucidate what we believe, we confess our sins, we tell the story of Jesus, we celebrate the wonders of creation, we anticipate the glory of the coming kingdom, and we offer ourselves as living sacrifices. “All to Jesus I surrender, all to him I freely give.”

This is why we sing. It lifts our spirits. It confesses our faith. It invites our neighbor to trust God, love Jesus and open up to the filling of the holy spirit.

When Paul the apostle first went to Philippi, trouble ensued. He was tossed into jail. What did he do there? He lifted his voice in song!  At midnight, he and Silas were singing.

Maybe they were singing this song. Maybe that is why he quoted it in this letter to those believers in Philippi. In Philippi, in Rome, in Hendersonville, even in Kyiv, we hum some version of the song I learned as a child, “Come we that love the lord and let our joys be known. Join in a song with sweet accord, join in a song with sweet accord, join in a song with sweet accord, and thus surround the throne.”


This song outlines the most important part of our Christian faith: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Yes, there are many other things we believe and celebrate.

  • “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
  • When the Hebrew people were slaves in Egypt, God brought them out “with a strong right hand.”
  • God sent the Hebrew prophets to shape the moral life of the people: “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God.”

The Bible itself closes with an expansive vision of the coming of God and the renewal of all things. It is pictured as a city coming down out of heaven. From the center of the city there flows a river, the river of life. On each side of the river are the trees of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nation, whose leaves are for the healing of the nation.”

This promise of a coming kingdom helps us live with hope and sing for joy. It is a blessed hope, that picks us up when things look bad: when friends die, when wars commence, when we fall or fail in public or private ways, we are carried along by the hope that we have within us.

This song reminds us that at the center of our hope is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus lived. Jesus died for us. God raised Jesus from the dead. These things I believe. This is the core of Christian confession from the very beginning. When those early Christians said, “Jesus is Lord,” this is what they meant: Jesus lived among us and went about doing good. Jesus died on the cross for our sins and in our place. On the third day, God raised him from the dead.

This is the essence of our belief. This is the content of our preaching and teaching. This is the story we sing and tell and teach. This is the victory we have in Jesus. Confessing, singing, and preaching that strays from this is no longer Christian confessing, Christian singing, or Christian preaching.

That early song says this: Jesus gave up his status in the heavens to take up residence here on earth. He healed the sick. He challenged those in authority. He coached his disciples on how to pray and share and love. Jesus lived a simple life, trusted in God as the One who loved him and provided for him. He gave food to those who needed it and answered the questions of those who came to see him. He wrestled with his own sense of calling. He invited others, including us, to live like him and prepare for the coming rule of God.

Verse two, says, Jesus gave up his own life and died a criminal’s death on a cross. This we have remembered this week. The religious authorities resisted Jesus and his popular movement. They heard him challenge the temple complex and its version of the godly life. They feared his success and denounced his mission. So they conspired with the political authorities, the Romans, to push him off the public stage. They worked a deal with Judas, arrested Jesus on trumped up charges, and had him lodged in the city jail. They condemned him to torture and death. Jesus died with nails in his hands and hope in his heart.

Verse three says this: Therefore, God “elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him a name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.”

It is this phrase, “the place of highest honor” that grabs my attention today, on this Easter Sunday morning. Where is this place of highest honor?


Where is this place of highest honor? What is this place of highest honor?

This past week, baseball celebrated the career of Jackie Robinson. Seventy-five years ago, Jackie was the first person of color to play professional baseball in the big leagues. It was a big deal, and this week the league made it a big deal. All the players wore his number, 42. A street in New York City was renamed in his honor. Statues were unveiled, stories were told, and aspirations were declared.

Jackie Robinson played ten years for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Then he retired. He died in 1972. But we honor him this week and give him a name that is near the top of those who shaped baseball.

Sometimes we think of Jesus retiring, don’t we?

He worked for thirty-three years here.  He did good, took care of his mother, made friends with a whole troupe of people, and stood for righteousness. He died a broken and disgraced man. But God raised him into retirement. He has a nice home, now, even a throne. He no longer has to trudge this earth, weather the storms, respond to all the demands on his time, or explain to slow-witted people the true meaning of the Hebrew Bible. He is up there, with God, waiting for just the right time to swoop down in glory, bonk all the wicked on their everlasting foreheads, and set up his kingdom to rule forever.

That’s the picture we get, right?

We are waiting for the Return of Jesus! The clouds will part, and the Son of Man will descend with a shout. We debate whether it is a two-step process, first, snatching all the saved people out in an event some call the rapture, then later, sweeping all the lost people into eternal damnation. We are in a waiting period now. Jesus is up there waiting, on his heavenly throne, for the judgment day.

The place of highest honor is that throne, in heaven, next to God, right?

Have we not learned anything? Have we not listened to Jesus? Did we not pay attention to Jesus when he was explaining about the place of honor and the place of service? Weren’t we watching when he took the towel, and bowl, and water and stooped to wash the feet? Weren’t we listening when he said, the greatest among you must be your servant?

Don’t we remember that he was born, not in a castle or a palace or a place safe and secure and worthy of designation as a national monument? He was born in a stable, a barn, a stall. Have you been near a stall lately?

Where is this place of highest honor? Where did Jesus go when the angels rolled that stone away? Where was Jesus that morning when, on the third day, “he got up,” as they say in the black church?

I’ll tell you what happened.

Jesus got up and went back to work!

Jesus got up on that first Easter morning and look around. He saw the women scrounging for something to eat. He saw the sick desperate for a cure. He saw the ignorance and superstition of the crowds. He saw how the institutions of his day were more concerned about their own survival than they were about justice, and mercy, and humility.

Jesus got up and looked around and said, to himself, “There is still a lot of work to do.” Jesus got up and went back to work … in the barrios of Buenos Aires and the refugee camps of Syria.

Jesus got up and went to work … on the border that separates Russia from Ukraine and along the river that divides Mexico from the United States.

Jesus got up on the first day of the week and went back to work, in the penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and the food stamp office in Seattle, Washington.

Jesus is not sitting in some celestial easy chair counting down the days until he can zap a billion or two and hobnob with a million or two. In the kingdom of God, that does not describe the place of highest honor. That is the mind and imagination of a worldly person, unredeemed and ill informed. That is not the way of God; it is the way of this world.

Jesus got up and went back to work.

I will tell you where Jesus is today. He is serving food this afternoon at the Sunday worship meal on Oakland Street in Hendersonville. Jesus is huddle at the monthly PFLAG meeting trying to find safe places for the kids kicked out of their homes while they are searching for themselves.

I’ll tell you where else Jesus is today. He is at the United Nations whispering into the ear of ambassadors from everywhere the ways and means of Shalom. Jesus is in board rooms, and bank lobbies, and school halls, and store front rescue missions.

And today, this Easter morning, Jesus is already sitting at the restaurant waiting for us to finish with our religious business and join him for what we will surely call holy communion.

Jesus is sitting in your house, at your kitchen table, drinking coffee while you describe to him the hellish mess that has swallowed up your family.

Jesus is sitting on the back row of this small sanctuary, hoping we will celebrate Easter by helping somebody else find a light for their darkness, a cure for their depression, a friend for their loneliness, a hope for their despair, a song for the soul, a savoir for the worst of our lostness.

Jesus wants us to think less about what the Risen Savior can do for us and more about what we can do for those around us: to bring a little redemption into the life of some person who is today seeking a salvation.

Maybe that person is you.



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