To Kneel Or Not?

Text: Philippians 2:5-11

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

I am certain that everyone remembers back in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem and continued to do so for the rest of the 2016 NFL Football Season. Long story short, Kaepernick took a knee as a sign of protest.  

However, apart from the last 60-80 years, taking a knee was typically a sign of submission or respect. For example, back in medieval times, a knight would kneel before his lord or King to swear allegiance. And consider the military; soldiers may kneel before a commanding officer to receive an award or swear an oath. Even in some legal systems worldwide, a person may find themselves kneeling before a judge as a sign of respect for the court and its authority. And consider right here in this sanctuary; we take a knee before the Lord’s Table as a sign of reverence and worship.  

But keep in mind that even though we do kneel before the Lord at this Table, we can also take a figurative knee before other people and entities without physically doing so. That is to say; when we use formal titles such as sir or ma’am or when we use the terms Mr. or Mrs., we are showing respect and figuratively taking a knee. When we call our physician “Doctor” or when we say “Good day, Officer,” we are also taking a figurative knee. Generally speaking, this is very good as it shows that we respect and acknowledge other people’s authority and influence. It is a way of showing respect and acknowledging a role that a person is walking in.  

Now, keep in mind that taking a knee is something that we should do as an expression of gratitude. It is a way that we defer to another person and acknowledge their role, skills, and duty towards us in society.

But what happens when those in authority demand and force people to take a knee? Frankly, when a religious organization demands a person to take a knee, you can be 100% sure that you are not dealing with a faithful orthodox church but a cult. Anytime a government forces people to take a knee, you can be 100% sure that you are not dealing with a free nation but a tyrannical state. And anytime a culture forces people to take a knee, you can be 100% sure that you are not dealing with a healthy social system but an authoritarian culture. When you are forced to take a knee – forced into submission, pressured into conformity, threatened, canceled, or censured to walk and chew gum according to those in authority, well… you can be 100% sure that corruption of power is at work.  

So, how do we make sense of all of this?  

In our reading from the Epistle of Philippians, we hear that Jesus is highly exalted and given the name that is above every name so that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow. In other words, as Christians, we take a knee before the Christ.  

But does this mean that we do not take a knee to anyone else? Of course not! As Christians, we take a knee to all sorts of people, either physically or figuratively, because we know that God almighty has instituted various people in particular vocations for our own good – for the good order of society. 

However, there are other times when we absolutely cannot take a knee before another person or institution. 

But why?  

Consider the Old Testament Book of Daniel. In the book of Daniel, we read about a King named Nebuchadnezzar. He had made a golden statue and had commanded everyone to take a knee – to fall down and worship the statue – when the music began to play. However, three Jewish men named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not.  And so, when the King found this out, he brought them before him and gave them a second chance to take a knee before his pagan idol made of gold or be thrown into a fiery furnace. Listen to what these three said, 

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not worried about what will happen to us. If we are thrown into the flaming furnace, our God is able to deliver us; and he will deliver us out of your hand, Your Majesty. But if he doesn’t, please understand, sir, that even then, we will never under any circumstance serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have erected.”[1]

Did you notice what they said? While still showing respect to Nebuchadnezzar – as a king – they refused to take a knee to the King’s idol. And so, dear friends, mark this: while you can take a knee before various people in society, as they serve and bless you in their vocations, only one knee can be taken before your God. 

Please listen very carefully. As a Christian, you can take a knee before other created people as they serve you in their various vocations with their various authority. On the same day, you can take a figurative knee before a pastor, judge, teacher, officer, doctor, and mayor because God works through these vocations to bless and serve you. However, you can only take one knee before the Creator. And so, whenever the created elevate themselves to the realm of the Creator and then demand that you take a knee, well… then you find yourself right there with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Furthermore, whenever the created try to twist God’s Word, challenge God’s character, and usurp God’s power, you and I cannot take a knee before the created because your knee only bows to one Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. You are captive to the Word of God; all the words of man are secondary. This is why Peter said in the book of Acts, “it is necessary to obey God rather than men.”  

But this is where we must be alert and aware. You see, the majority of the population will take a knee to follow the masses. For the majority of the population, being accepted by others and being a part of the larger group is more important than being faithful. The majority of people will blindly kneel with the crowd to conform without questioning it at all. They are easily swayed by peer pressure and the need to fit in. Don’t believe me – pick whatever poison our culture is peddling at this time, and you will see blind masses of people taking a knee while thinking that they are independent thinkers with free wills commanding their destiny when in reality, they are a bunch of lemmings kneeling before false idols just like the people did during the time of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  

But not you, Baptized Christians. You bow only to one Lord – Jesus Christ. And the reason why you only bow to Jesus Christ is because of what the Apostle Paul says in the reading from the Epistle of Philippians. You see, your Jesus set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave – He put on flesh and blood. And after being born and laid in a manger, He stayed flesh and blood, which was an incredibly humbling process. He did not claim special privileges. He lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless obedient death – the worst kind of death of all – death on a cross. 

In a way, Jesus took a humble knee before all of humanity’s sin, shame, and disgrace – and considered it worthwhile. And then, because of that obedience unto death, God lifted Jesus high and honored Him far beyond anyone or anything created so that every knee will bow before Christ.  

And so, how can you bend your knee to false idols, cheap ideologies, and foolish movements, for they do not bleed and die for you. They give you nothing but take everything.  

Baptized Saints, you take a knee before Christ willingly and gladly because your Jesus went to Mount Calvary for you and rose from the tomb for you. And hear this, those who reject Christ and take a knee to demons behind the false idols - these people, along with the demons, whether they want to or not, will have to acknowledge someday that Jesus is Lord. On the great last day, every tongue must and will confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord. Every created thing and person will bend a knee before Christ – you will take a knee in faithful adoration unto life and others will take a knee in shame unto the fires of hell.  

We take a knee for no man except the God-man Jesus Christ, who came to Calvary’s cross that Palm Sunday long ago to give Himself for you and me Glory to Christ the Humble One who did everything well for you and me.  

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

[1] Msg.

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