Pride, the primordial sin. Why? According to some traditions, when God created the angels, he told them he was going to become a human being.
Now, Lucifer was one of the closest angels to God. In fact, Lucifer means bearer of light. He was believed to be one of the most brilliant of the angels. But he thought it was wrong that God should want to become something less than the angels.
You see, he thought that the perfection of being was in the spiritual world, not in the physical world. He was filled with pride that he thought he was better than all of creation, because he was of a similar nature as God, who is pure spirit.
Because of this insistence on the part of God to become human, Lucifer went into a rebellion – out of pride – and, according to Scripture, he took one third of the angels with him. One third of the angels became demons because they could not understand how God would lower himself so much to become a man.
In their pride, they chose to go against God’s will. And that is exactly what happens when any of us act in pride. The seduction that Satan used against Adam and Eve was one of pride. He told them they would become like God himself.
And ever since that time, there has been a struggle because God created us flesh and spirit. There have been heresies in the church that tried to downplay the importance of the flesh. But Jesus came, lived, died, and rose from the dead in the flesh. He saves us through our participation in the sacraments in the flesh. He took his human, resurrected body to the throne of God – in the flesh. Because of this the glory of God is revealed – in the flesh. This is all in spite of Satan’s attempt to destroy humanity – in the flesh – by leading us to his own sin: pride.
So, how do we combat this most ancient of sins called pride? It is the last of the capital sins to mention here as this season of Lent draws to a close. It is through the virtue of humility. Jesus showed the magnitude of God’s humility by coming to live among us, only to die. St. Paul quotes an ancient Christian hymn in his letter to the Philippians which we read today. It speaks of Jesus’ humility in being willing to die.
It was because of this humility that he was raised up to the glory of the Father. And at the end of this marvelous little reading, we hear that every knee will bend, in the heavens on the earth and under the earth – this means even Satan must bend his knee before Jesus even Satan must declare that Jesus Christ is Lord. Though that declaration will do him no good regarding his eternal destiny.
It takes humility on our part to declare Jesus as our Lord. But if we do not do that here and now, if we do not humble our pride, if we do not yield to the glory of God through the humble Son of God, we may find ourselves humbled before God in a way that we do not want, namely to be condemned along with Satan.
This is why the church concludes our season of Lent with a reading of the Passion of our Lord. It is so that we will see the humility of Christ, and humble ourselves, and yield to his Lordship in our lives.
We are not playing a plastic Jesus game. We are playing for much higher stakes: our very souls. Too many people in our world want to treat Jesus as if he is some plastic figure rather than a life and blood warrior king who stood up to death, conquered it, and now calls us through it by the way of his cross to the glory of everlasting life. Amen.