Someone affirms: "The chief glory of heaven, the true
heavenly-mindedness, the chief of the graces, is humility"
(Murray). Jesus said in our reading this morning:
"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle
and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls"
(Matthew 11:29). Jesus, the Divine Son, empties Himself and
becomes the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. Now what
again does "Messiah" mean? That's right: Anointed One
or King. But notice, He is a lowly or a meek King.
To be described as "meek" was not a compliment in Jesus'
world. The word humble or meek generally meant a
person who was crushed, afflicted, humiliated, and degraded
(Piper). Matthew's gospel helps us to understand
better what type of king Jesus was. Notice what 2:16
states: "Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the
wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put
to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in
all its districts ..." When King Herod got angry,
you'd better hold your breath, because something was about
to explode. Matthew 18:34 tells us about another king
who was settling debts with his servants: "And his master
was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he
should pay all that was due to him." Because his servant
had failed to show mercy, this king became angry and took
away the mercy that he had originally shown to one who owed
him a tremendous debt. Let's look at one more king
described in Matthew 22:7: "But when the king heard about
it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies,
destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city."
Are you beginning to see a pattern? All these kings in
Matthew get angry, and that anger causes them to take
forceful actions. Now what does King Jesus do after
His triumphant entry into Jerusalem? Well, we might
answer: "He became angry and cleaned house at the temple by
driving out the moneychangers." That answer is only
partially correct; He did drive out the moneychangers, but
He did not become angry. You won't find the word
"anger" in any of gospel accounts. In fact, listen to
what Matthew says: "Then Jesus went into the temple of God
and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple,
and overturned the tables of the money changers and the
seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them,
'It is written: My house shall be called a house of prayer,
but you have made it a den of thieves.'" Now what
emotions do we find in that passage? That's right:
"None is described." Now notice the very next verses:
"Then the blind and the lame came to Him IN THE TEMPLE, and
He healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes
saw the wonderful things that He did and children crying out
in the temple and saying: 'Hosanna to the Son of David!'
they were indignant and said to Him, 'Do You hear what these
are saying?' And He said to them: 'Yes. Have you
never read: 'Out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants
You have perfected praise?'" Did you hear any emotions
then? "Yes, that's right, the Jewish rulers were
indignant!" So, what's the contrast. Most kings
and officials in Matthew get upset easily, but Jesus is a
meek King. And even when Jesus is nailed to a Roman
cross after a horrible beating, we do not find Him getting
angry and seeking revenge. Oh, He could have called on
thousands of angels to have burned all those involved in the
crucifixion. He had the power, but He doesn't lift a
finger against His enemies. Does this mean that Jesus
was a sissy? Far from it, Jesus was a man's man.
He lived in the outdoors and endured its rains and
temperatures, the building materials of His trade were rock
and wood so He must have been pretty muscular, and He went
without food once for 40 days. No, He was no sissy.
He was meek or humble; He was like a strong stallion that
has been tamed. You see, meekness and humility is
strength under control! And this brings us to our
topic today: "Be humble like Jesus!" Jesus was and is
a King, but this Messiah did not place the emphasis on pomp,
power, and force. Let's look at four unusual aspects
of this unusual King today. Be humble like Jesus!
First of all, seek the warhorse of a donkey! Let's
look at Matthew 21:1-8: "Now when they drew near Jerusalem,
and come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus
sent two disciples, saying to them, 'Go into the village
opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied,
and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me.
And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, "The Lord
has need of them," and immediately, he will let you send
them.' All this was done that it might be fulfilled
which was spoken by the prophet, saying: 'Tell the daughter
of Zion, "Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and
sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey." So
the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them.
They brought the donkey and colt, laid their clothes on
them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude
spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches
from the trees and spread them on the road.'" Someone
captures what others might have thought on that day with
these words: "Your King lacks class! No one will
follow Him. A king has to have flair and style.
He has to arouse feelings of pride and prestige.
People have to identify with Him. They must be able to
say: 'His prowess is my prowess, and His glory is my glory!'
He has to have dignity and a certain aloofness. He has
to know how to carry his crown and flash His sword in the
sun. The least a king can do for His subjects is
ride a spirited steed! What will you answer when men
ask for your king? 'He's over there on that donkey
with His sandals dragging on the ground.' Ha!
I'll lay you ten to one, nobody will ever follow Him"
(Rees)! Did you catch again how Jesus was described:
"Behold, your King is coming to you" – Yes, He was a king,
He was the anticipated Messiah, but then notice "lowly and
sitting on a donkey". But He is the meek King.
He's not sitting on a warhorse but on an animal often used
for trips and bearing burdens (Lewis). This King is
not about to make a great show of force to overthrow the
Romans and set up a new government, as the apostles and
crowd were hoping. By making His entrance on a donkey,
Jesus shows that war, fighting, and rebellion were not going
to be his means of conquest over the Romans. Seek the
warhorse of a donkey! We don't need to be
warhorses—powerful, forceful, able to coerce, able to
conquer. Listen to Jesus' challenge in Matthew 18:2-4:
"Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the
midst of them, and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, unless
you are converted and become as little children, you will by
no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore,
whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest
in the kingdom of heaven." Someone has noted: "The key to
humility is not merely feeling the absence of merit, but
feeling the presence of free grace. Humility is not
only like the servant who say, 'I am an unworthy servant';
humility is also like a child at rest in his father's arms.
... For a strong, self-sufficient, and controlling
person, Jesus' demand was devastating. ... Jesus knew that
children were not models for imitation in His day. The
reason He chose them is because of 'their powerlessness and
their low social standing'. His demand is that we end
out love affair with power, self-sufficiency and rights. ...
Trust is probably the main focus in Jesus' comparison
between his disciples and children" (Piper). As Jesus
entered Jerusalem, He certainly was trusting in God to help
Him conquer through the cross. The passage saying the
lowly King would come riding on a donkey is found in
Zechariah. There's also another passage earlier in
that same book that Jesus may have kept uppermost in His
mind which God addressed to one of Israel's leaders: "'Not
by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord of
hosts" (4:6). Let's learn that bullying and coercion
will not get the job done. Seek the warhorse of a
donkey! Be humble like Jesus!
Next, seek the weapon of a towel. Just several hours
before His arrest, Jesus ate the last supper with His
disciples. You recall how John 13 says that Jesus
steadfastly loved His disciples. Then it tells how He
takes a towel and a basin and begins to wash the apostles'
feet. Yes, even Judas was included in that washing.
Jesus then said that what He had done should serve as an
example to all of the apostles, and they should wash one
another's' feet. He then states that we will be
blessed if we put this kind of service into practice.
Who would have ever thought that a towel could become such a
powerful weapon? Seek the weapon of a towel.
Someone made this good observation: "And because Christ had
thus humbled Himself before God, and God was ever before
Him, He found it possible to humble Himself before men too,
and to be the Servant of all. His humility was simply
the surrender of Himself to God, to allow Him to do in Him
what He pleased, whatever men around might say of Him, or do
to Him. This is the true self-denial to which our
Savior calls us ... It is in this [serving] as an empty
vessel which God must fill, above and before everything, in
which the conformity to Jesus consists, the being and doing
nothing of ourselves, that God may be all. ... The poor, who
have nothing in themselves, to them the kingdom comes.
The meek, who seek nothing in themselves, theirs the earth
shall be. The blessings of heaven and earth are for
the lowly" (Murray). Someone else had these good
ideas: "Humble people exalt others. They are primarily
other-directed, first upward to God and the outward to
others. They were not like the scribes who oppressed
others in Luke 20:46-47. ... Genuine humility grows out of a
faith in the greatness of God and a confidence that God will
act. ... True humility is able to love because it is
genuinely other-directed (1 Cor. 13:4). Conceited
people love only themselves" (Hunt). You know, the
proud don't want others to advance beyond them [because they
want to stay on top], and they don't understand grace
[because everything to them is based on merit], but the
humble have a joyful readiness to do lowly service [and to
exalt, to honor, and to lift up others]" (Piper).
There was a Christian organization dedicated to helping the
poor. It was rendering a great service, and many
people wanted to join it. One of these who wanted to
help was a preacher. The man who ran the organization
told the preacher that instead of helping the poor, he
wanted him to keep the other workers' shoe shined each day.
At first, the preacher felt somewhat miffed. Then he
remembered John 13, and then he prayed, "Lord, if you could
wash the disciples' feet, I guess I can shine Your servants'
shoes!" As you can imagine, that man later became one
of the leaders in that organization. Seek the weapon
of towel! Be humble like Jesus!
Next, seek the coronation of a thorny crown. Let's
read Matthew 27:27-31: "Then the soldiers of the governor
took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole
garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a
scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of
thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right
hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked
Him, saying: 'Hail, King of the Jew!' Then, they spat
on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head.
And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him,
put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be
crucified." One again we see Jesus' great strength and
composure. Whatever was God's will to be performed, He
carried it out with humble obedience. A few verses
earlier in Matthew, the Jews had mocked Jesus in a similar
way, but the Romans really went all out to make this a
humiliating and shameful experience. A garrison would
have been about 500 soldiers, and here they were making a
mockery of Jesus' kingship. His royal robe was a
soldier's cape, His sceptre was a wooden measuring rod about
9 ft. long, and His diadem was a crown of thorns. In
Matthew, others bow before Jesus with respect, but these
soldiers bow before Him in mockery, and they greet Him
sarcastically as if He were the emperor! What great
control Jesus exhibited in not striking back. Someone
noted the source of His strength with these words: "He was
nothing that God might be all. He resigned Himself
with His will and His power entirely for the Father to work
in Him. Of His own power, His own will, and His own
glory, of His whole mission with all His works and His
teaching—of all He said, 'It is not I; I am nothing; I have
given Myself to the Father to work; I am nothing, the Father
is all" (Murray). Seek the coronation of a thorny
crown! Isn't it hard to believe—the Ruler of the
universe allows Himself to be insulted and ridiculed for the
sake of obeying His heavenly Father's will! What a
meek King He was! Are we willing to humble ourselves
to this degree—to be made fun of, to take physical abuse, to
endure social scorn, to offer no retaliation whatsoever?
Someone has observed: The Christian "does not ask, 'How can
I have maximum prestige or applause?' He or she asks,
'How can I do the greatest good for people who need my help,
no matter what it costs me" (Piper)? A thorny crown
symbolizes mistreatment, ridicule, pain, injustice and evil.
Part of taking up our cross might be wearing a thorny crown
as well. There was a priest in Italy who became
a New Testament Christian in the early '50s. As a
result, he immediately lost his job as a teacher in a
seminary, he was ridiculed mercilessly by his peers telling
him to leave "the cult group" that he had joined, come to
his senses, and return to true mother church, he was called
a traitor and treated as an outcast. He endured his
thorny crown, however, and became a great preacher and
publisher for the Lord's church. Seek the cornonation
of a thorny crown! Be humble like Jesus!
Next, seek the banner of a meal. Go to John 21.
You see the chapter begins, with seven of Jesus' disciples
going fishing. They fished all night and caught
nothing. Jesus sees them and tells them to cast their
nets on the right side of the boat. They do so and
catch a multitude of fish! John recognized that it was
Jesus, and Peter swims ashore. Now let's pick up
reading in verse 9: "Then, as soon as they had come to land,
the saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and
bread. Jesus said to them: 'Bring some of the fish
which you have just caught.' Simon Peter went up and
dragged the net to land, full of large fish, 153; and
although there were so many, the net was not broken.
Jesus said to them: 'Come and eat breakfast.'" Think for
just a moment. Hadn't all these men, except John,
abandoned Jesus when He died? Jesus didn't give these
disciples what they deserved—some stern rebukes; He gave
them the kind reaffirmations they needed. That's
called grace. A brother has noted: "The badge of
discipleship is love. ... As Christians, we are to love the
brotherhood (1 Pt. 2:17). Love for the brethren should
flow naturally from the relationship that we share with
Christ" (Dearman). Another brother added: "What a
tremendous experience they had on the lake shore that
morning! This is one of the instances when Jesus as
the risen Lord ate in their presence" (Pack). A
breakfast is the sign of Christ's forgiveness, acceptance,
and restoration of them all. What a simple and
profound banner. Seek the banner of a meal.
Someone has observed: "Humble people want to encourage
others. They enjoy seeing others blossom and succeed.
... Humble people are able to make peace, which, in turn,
makes unity; they are reconcilers. ... Humility leads to
openness, love, encouragement, ... Jesus' teaching on
humility is among the best known of His teachings, and yet
the power and nobility of humility remains the best-kept
secret in the Christian world" (Hunt). Jesus did not
look down on His disciples because He led from the foot of
the table, and we should take that same position.
Remember Paul's admonition in Philippians 2:3-4: "Let
nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in
lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than
himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own
interests, but also for the interests of others."
"Ronald Regan's attitude after the 1981 attempt on his life
made an impression on his daughter, Patti. She said:
'The following day, my father said he knew his physical
healing was directly dependent on his ability to forgive
John Hinckley. By showing me that forgiveness is the
key to everything, including physical health and healing, he
gave me an example of Christlike thinking" (Davis).
Seek the banner of a meal! Be humble like Jesus.
Someone said: "God uses me, but I hope it is others who sees
that HE uses me. The ax cannot boast when the trees
are fallen; it is the woodcutter who gets the credit.
He takes the ax, he sharpens it, and he uses it. When
he throws it aside, it becomes only scrap old iron. Oh
that I might never lose sight of this truth" (Brengle in
Swindoll). "The chief glory of heaven, the true
heavenly-mindedness, the chief of the graces, is humility"
(Murray). Seek the warhorse of a donkey and the weapon
of a towel. Seek the cornonation of a thorny crown and
the banner of meal. Be humble like Jesus!
Let's pray: "God, we thank You for the tremendous example of
Your Son, for the great strength and control He showed in
doing Your will. Father, help us to follow His
example. May we always put Your will into practice.
In Jesus we pray, Amen."
"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will
lift you up" (James 4:10). Someone has said: "Just as
water ever seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment
God finds one of His creatures abased and empty, His glory
and power flow in to exalt and bless" (Murray). What a
high standard of humility we are called to follow!
Submission to Christ in baptism is the place to begin if
your are not a Christian. Asking prayers of the church
is the action to take if you are Christian and have been
living a life filled with pride. Be humble like Jesus!
Follow His lead!