Christ-Like Disciples (3)
As we continue our look at some of the characteristics of our Lord Jesus Christ, with the knowledge that all disciples should emulate Him, we now consider the matter of His humility. As with the previous characteristics of compassion and selflessness, humility may not be popular in our modern society, but we always appreciate seeing it in others. If only we would make the connection that others love to see it in us, too!
Humility, by definition, means having a “modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.” [Random House Unabridged Dictionary] The MacMillan Dictionary defines it as “a way of behaving that shows that you do not think that you are better or more important than other people.” Now, for Jesus to be demonstrating this characteristic is quite astonishing! Here is the one who, as deity, was responsible for the creation of all things (John 1:1-3), but also the one who “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:7, 8). Despite the fact He was God and had unlimited power and knowledge, Jesus displayed the greatest degree of humility and came to Earth to live as a human being.
But not only did Jesus demonstrate humility in coming to Earth, He continued with His demonstrations of humility throughout His earthly life. He lived a humble life as the son of a carpenter (Matt. 13:55) and in humble
circumstances, never having a home of His own (Matt. 8:20) and most certainly not living in a palace, as would be fitting for such a King as He. Humility was what moved Him to not demand any privileges or honor that was, in fact, due Him, but lived humbly and never demanded honor or glory and never acted in a way that would appear to others that He thought of Himself as more important than others — though He was worthy of all honor and glory and was more important than anyone.
Even to the end, Jesus demonstrated humility, commanding Peter to put away His sword, even as He reminded the disciples that He could have called “more than twelve legions of angels” to deliver Him from the mob, if He had wanted (Matt. 26:47-54). He continued in His humility as He was taken away, remaining silent when standing before the false charges of the Sanhedrin (Matt. 26:59-63) and when He stood before Pilate, “while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.” When Pilate questioned His silence, “He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly” (Matt. 27:11-14). Behind all His actions, we see humility was the motivating factor, for in all this Jesus refused to claim the glory and honor He deserved, and He never acted as if He thought Himself any more important than anyone else. He chose humility to fulfill His very purpose in coming: to die for us.
C.S. Lewis once said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” In a sense, Lewis was right; Jesus knew who He was and what honor and glory He was worthy of receiving, but He did not come to this Earth thinking about Himself, or with the intent of garnering as much praise, honor, and glory as He could. He came to this Earth to die a cruel death on the cross to be the sacrifice for our sins. He came to this Earth thinking about us, and all he did was for mankind, thinking little of Himself, or not at all. When it comes down to it, there really is no greater example or demonstration of humility than the life of Jesus and the death of Jesus. He is most certainly worthy of note, and worthy of our emulation, especially as His disciples.
When Jesus demonstrated humility, He did not deny who he was, but simply did not dwell on who He was and didn’t spend all His time reminding people of who He was. That is the essence of true humility — not that we think of ourselves less than what we are or who we are, but that we think about ourselves less and about others more often. It is an attitude of service to others, rather than a demand to be served by others. As disciples of Jesus, humility should be a visible and important character trait.
The Proper ‘Attire’ of the Disciple. The apostle Peter gave clear instruction to this point: “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Pet. 5:5, 6). James echoes this need for humility, also (Jas. 4:10). From these few words, we can learn some important lessons about who we are supposed to be, as disciples.
First, when Peter wrote that we are to “be clothed with humility,” he used a phrase used nowhere else in the New Testament. That phrase comes from a Greek term that means to fasten a garment around oneself, but it particularly referred to a garment worn by servants. In essence, Peter exhorted the early disciples to clothe themselves as a servant would — with humility. That tells us why humility is so important; we will not have the proper mindset of service if we have not first purposed in our minds to live in true humility.
Second, we must do this as disciples because it will be only because of humility that we will be ultimately exalted by God. He “resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” which follows the pattern of Jesus (Phil. 2:9-11). If we truly want God’s praise now and in the final judgment, then humility must be our primary character trait.
It Is A Factor in Our Evangelism. When Paul gave instruction to Timothy for all disciples, he said they must all be able to teach, “in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance” (2 Tim. 2:24-26). When trying to convince lost souls of the need for repentance and forgiveness, we will have few listeners if we go with an arrogant, know-it-all attitude. Humility will sometimes open doors that have long been closed.
It Is A Factor in Our Salvation. The psalmist once wrote, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psa. 34:18). Lowliness of mind is a starting point for all who would be saved. It is only when we humbly admit we are sinners that we will even desire the forgiveness He so graciously offers. — Steven Harper