Kenōsis is the Greek word in Philippians 2:7 translated “made nothing” (ESV). It’s what Jesus did to himself — “he made himself nothing . . .”
Donald Macleod writes,
In becoming incarnate God not only accomodates himself to human weakness: he buries his glory under veil after veil so that it is impossible for flesh and blood to recognize him. As he hangs on the cross, bleeding, battered, powerless and forsaken, the last thing he looks like is God. Indeed, he scarcely looks human. He looks like nothing but a hell–bound, hell–deserving derelict. Everything about him says, “An atheist and a blasphemer!” . . .
We should notice, too, that the kenōsis involved the willingness to go ever lower. Behind it, there lay two great decisions. The first, pre-temporal, was a decision of the eternal Son to assume the form of a servant in the likeness of men. Second, taken once he was incarnate, was the decision to humble himself even further.
From this point of view, the humiliation of Christ was not a point, but a line. Its greatest single step was that by which he became the child in the manger. The condescension involved in that is beyond imagining. Yet it was only the beginning of the long downward journey through homelessness, poverty, exhaustion, shame and pain to Gethsemane; and beyond that to Calvary. . . .
Every moment in that journey from Bethlehem to Calvary was chosen; and every moment on the cross, from the third to the ninth hour, was chosen. Every day of the Lord’s life he re-enacted the kenōsis, renewing the decision which had made him nothing and choosing to move further and further into the shame and pain it involved. He loved his own, and when eventually it became clear what that love would cost he went forward, trembling, to be what his people’s sin deserved.
The Person of Christ, “Contours of Christian Theology,” ed. Gerald Bray, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1998), 218, paragraphing added.
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