7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
There is a truly haunting photograph of a young lady looking out of a manhole cover in the city of Bucharest.
She lives down there, along with thousands of young people and small children who have been forgotten, abandoned. One man, John Nolan, a Christian who became heartbroken when he learned about the plight of poor children in Romania while in a prayer meeting, decided to go and do something about it. He went down underground to meet and get to know these young people. He speaks of his shock at the condition of these kids.
I remember meeting a boy who kept stubbing cigarettes out on his arm and another boy who was set on fire. These street children have no identities, no papers so they can’t get a job. They feel no one cares for them so they are nomads, ghosts, wandering the streets, high on glue. Many live in sewers, destitute, and because the police don’t go to check on them, some die.’
A Christianity Today article speaks of another man who has determined to reach these children living underground.
As another cold night falls on the East European city of Bucharest, Marshall McKenna prepares to visit the hidden homes of the hundreds of Romanian street children.
Heading for a manhole on a side street, Marshall easily pulls away the heavy lid and quickly disappears down the ladder. Four yards below street level, the inky darkness closes in around him. But the young South African knows his way and walks on confidently.
After several minutes, someone ahead strikes a match and lights a candle. It’s Ionel in his winter nest, which is nothing more than a large, filthy blanket on the concrete floor. Ionel and countless other abandoned Romanian children seek shelter under the streets of Bucharest, keeping warm near the underground steam pipes that crisscross the city.
This is just amazing to me: that a person would be so driven by concern, so driven by love for those hurting down below the surface, that they would look at a manhole cover and think, “Yes. I will go down there.” I do not suppose I have never looked at a manhole cover and thought, “Yes. I will go down there.” But these kindhearted people do. Why? Because they are followers of Jesus. And why does that matter? Because Jesus looked down upon our dark and rebellious and lost and wounded world and Himself said, “Yes. I will go down there.”
And this is even more amazing. It is one thing for a man to go beneath a manhole cover. It is another for God Himself to go down beneath the veil of tears into this fallen world. But that is exactly what Jesus did. And His coming down was so startling, so powerful, that Philippians 2:7 tells us that He “emptied himself” in order to do so.
That idea of “emptying himself”—the Greek word is kenōsis—is an idea about which theologians and interpreters of scripture have debated, but is an idea that we simply must get right. So what does kenōsis mean? What does it mean that Jesus “emptied himself” to come down to us?