Humility: The Beauty of Holiness # 4
Humility In the Teaching of Jesus
"Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart (Matthew 11:29). Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your slave (Matthew 20:27)
We have seen humility in the life of Christ, as He laid open His heart to us. Let us listen to His teaching. There we will hear how He speaks of humility, and how He expects men and His disciples to be humble, as He was. Let us carefully study these passages to receive the full impression of how often and how earnestly He taught about humility. It may help us realize what He asks of us.
Look at the beginning of His ministry. In the Beatitudes, with which the Sermon on the Mount opens, Scripture reads, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:3, 5). The very first words of His proclamation of the kingdom of heaven reveal the open gate through which we enter. The poor, who have nothing in themselves, to them comes the kingdom. The meek, who seek nothing in themselves, will inherit the earth. The blessing of heaven and earth are for the lowly. For the heavenly and the earthly life, humility is the secret of blessing.
"Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and ye shall find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:29). Jesus offers Himself as teacher. He tells us what the Spirit is and what we can learn and receive from Him. We will find these things in Him as teacher. Meekness and lowliness is what He offers us. In this, we fill find perfect rest for our souls. Humility will be our salvation.
The disciples had been disputing who would be the greatest in the kingdom, and had agreed to ask the Master (Luke 9:46; Matthew 18:3). He set a child in their midst, and said, "Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of the heavens." Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? The question is indeed a far-reaching one. What will be the primary differentiating feature in the heavenly kingdom? The answer was one that one but Jesus would have given. The top honor of heaven, the true heavenly mindedness, the most precious of the virtues, is humility."He that is least among you all, the same shall be great."
The sons of Zebedee asked Jesus for the honor to sit on His right hand and His left, the most prestigious places in the kingdom. Jesus said it was not His to give, but the Father's, who would give it to those for whom it was prepared. They must not look or ask for it. Their thought must be of the cup and the baptism of humiliation. And then He added, "and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your slave, even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give a ransom for many (Matthew 20:27-28). Humility will be the one standard of glory in heaven. As Christ demonstrated in His life, so the lowliest is nearer to God. The authority in the church is promised to the humblest.
Speaking to the multitude and the disciples regarding the Pharisees and their love of the highest positions, Christ said once again, "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant" (Matthew 23:11). Humiliation is the only ladder to honor in God's kingdom.
On another occasion, in the house of a Pharisee, He spoke the parable of the guest who would be invited to move to a higher position at the table (Luke 14:7-11). He added, "For whosoever exalts himself shall be abased, and he that humbles himself shall be exalted (Luke 14:11). The demand is inescapable; there is no other way. Submission alone will be exalted.
After the parable of the Pharisee and the publican, Christ spoke again: "Anyone that exalts himself shall be humbled, and he that humbles himself shall be exalted." (Luke 18:14). In our total relationship to God, everything is worthless that is not affected strongly by deep, true humility towards God and men.
After washing the disciples feet, Jesus said, "If I then, the Lord and the Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet (John 13:14). Every thought, either of obedience or conformity, makes humility the first and most essential element of discipleship.
At the Holy Supper table, the disciples still disputed who should be greatest. Jesus said, "He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is prince, as he that doth serve" (Luke 22:26). The path Jesus walked and opened up for us, the power in which He brought about salvation and saves us, it is because of his humility in these things that makes me the servant of all.
How little this is preached! How little it is practiced! How little the lack of it is felt or confessed! Sadly, few pursue some recognizable measure of likeness to Jesus in His humility. Few ever think of making it a specific object of continual desire or prayer. How little the world has seen it, even within the inner circle of the church!
"Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your slave" (Matthew 20:27). How exciting it would be if we could truly believe that Jesus means this for us! We all know what the character of a faithful servant or slave implies: devotion to the Master's interests, thoughtful study and care to please him, and delight in his prosperity, honor, and happiness. There are servants on earth in whom these attributes have been seen, and to whom the name of "servant" has never been anything but a glory. To how many of us has it not been a realized joy in our Christian life to know that we have the ability to yield ourselves as servants, as slaves to God? That we can find that His service is our highest liberty, the freedom from sin and self? Now is the time to learn another lesson: that Jesus calls us to be servants of one another. As we accept this lesson heartily, our service will be a true blessing, a new and fuller freedom from sin and self. At first, it may appear difficult. This is only because of the pride that still considers itself something. If we learn that to be nothing before God is the glory of the creature, we will welcome with our whole heart the discipline we may have in serving even those who annoy or irritate us. When our own heart is intent on this true sanctification, we will study each word of Jesus on humility with a new passion. No place will be too low, no stooping too deep, and no service too miserable or lengthy, if we simply have the opportunity to share and experience the fellowship with Him who spoke, "I am among you as he that serves" (Luke 22:27).
Brethren, here is the path to the higher life. Down, lower down! This was what Jesus repeatedly said to the disciples who were thinking of being great in the kingdom, and of sitting on His right hand and His left. Do not seek or ask for a position of honor; that is God's work. Your work is to submit and humble yourselves and take no place before God or man, but that of a servant. That is your work. Let that be your one purpose and prayer. God is faithful. Just as water always seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds the creature humble and empty, His glory and power flow in to raise up and bless. To humble ourselves be our single concern. That we will be exalted is God's concern. By His mighty power and in His great love He will do it.
Men sometimes speak as if humility and meekness would rob us of what is dignified, bold, and manlike. Oh, if only all would believe that it is Godlike to humble oneself to become servant of all! This is the nobility of the kingdom of heaven displayed. This is the path to the gladness and glory of Christ's presence dwelling in us.
Jesus, the meek and lowly One, calls us to learn from Him the path to God. Let us study the words we have been reading, until our hearts are filled with the thought: My one need is humility. Let us believe that what He shows, He gives, and what He is, He communicates. As the meek and lowly One, He will come in and dwell in the longing heart.
(continued with # 5 - Humility In The Disciples of Jesus