Humility is not very popular these days. Do you know what it is? Humility, or being humble, means having or showing a low view of one’s own importance. If we look around us pride and selfishness are much more common.
The Bible has a lot to say about humility and it is a theme that runs right through the life of the Lord Jesus, from his birth to his death. In his account of the Easter story, Luke mentions a striking event that we don’t think about very often, but links with this theme. In the upper room, just after the Passover meal and the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the disciples start arguing about which of them is the greatest (see Luke 22:24-30). It seems incredible, given the context, but that’s what they do. Unsurprisingly, Jesus rebukes them. Worldly people worry about who is the greatest, who is most important, who has most prominence. But, says Jesus, ‘ye shall not be so‘. His message is simple, the disciples should be seeking to serve one another, not to rule one another. In short, they should be following the example of humble service Jesus himself sets. He goes on to say ‘I am among you as he who serveth‘, and of course, in other accounts Jesus demonstrates this by washing his disciples’ feet.
There is an important practical lesson for us all here. Pride is everywhere around us, but also, inside us in our own hearts. We often fall into the same trap as the disciples – at school with our friends, at work with our colleagues, and sadly, even in the church, pride is our natural tendency rather than humility. And pride always ends up causing trouble and discord. You can find and read a sermon on this passage preached by Mr B Ramsbottom here – it’s full of simple, clear, practical teaching.
Leaving the practical aspects to one side, in the rest of this Easter post I want to focus more on the humility of the Lord Jesus.
There is so much about the Lord Jesus that makes him precious to his people, isn’t there? ‘Unto you therefore that believe he is precious‘. His love, his power, his mercy, his compassion, his sinless life amongst many other things, and in this post, his humility.
Paul picks up this theme in his letter to the church at Philippi. Echoing the teaching of Jesus in Luke 22 above, in chapter 2 of his epistle Paul is exhorting the Philippian believers to be humble and to put others first – ‘in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves‘. He goes on to give the example of the Lord Jesus who lived out this attitude in a greater, more wonderful way. ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:..‘ (verse 5).
Paul explains that the example of Jesus is remarkable, because if anyone deserved to be the opposite of humble, to be in a position of great importance, to have others serving him, it was the Lord Jesus. The reason is in verse 6 – ‘Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God‘ – Jesus is none other than Almighty God and from eternity past has lived in heaven with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
Then comes a first amazing aspect of Jesus’s humility. He ‘made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:..’ (verse 7). Despite being holy, Almighty God, Jesus condescended to become a man. He came to a sinful world, not as a king in a palace, but as a baby in a stable, born into a poor family, in Bethlehem, the least of the cities in Judah. Think of the contrast between the glory of heaven and the poverty of a manger.
Next, Paul tells us of a further aspect of Jesus’s humility. ‘And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death’ (verse 8). Not only did Jesus become a man, he accepted being rejected by the world he came to, then when he was about 30 years old, willingly subjected himself to a rigged trial, mockery, beatings and an unjust execution. Jesus, the sinless Lord of glory, submitted to death, the ultimate punishment for sin. More than this, it was ‘even the death of the cross‘. Crucifixion is an agonising, degrading way to die, and the Bible tell us ‘cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree‘ (Galatians 3:13).
And why did Jesus do this? Paul tells us, ‘For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.‘ (2 Corinthians 8:9) Jesus came into the world, suffered and died to save his people from their sins and to enable them to reach heaven. How amazing!
This Easter, on Good Friday especially, think about Jesus’s humility. Does this make him precious to you? Remember also that the story does not end there. In Philippians 2, Paul goes on to tell us in verse 9, that because of Jesus’s willing humility, ‘God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:..‘. On Easter Sunday we praise a risen Saviour, and not only risen, but exalted and glorified, once again in heaven at his Father’s right hand.
As the hymn says – Halleluiah, what a Saviour![B00005 – 14/04/2022]