The Humility of Jesus
Various Passages
By Paul Robison

At York College, there was a teacher in the Psychology Department named Steve Sikes.  He was a very gifted teacher and preacher.  He had a great family and lived in one of the nicest homes in York, which was actually built to his and his wife's specifications.  At a faculty meeting, he surprised everybody by announcing that he would be resigning and pulling up stakes to move to take a preaching job in the northeastern part of the county.  Later, the elders at church asked him to preach a final sermon before leaving.  He said in that sermon that many people had expressed an opinion that they thought he was a little crazy for giving up his job at the college in order to go into pulpit work.  Then followed an interesting statement that went something like this: “A disciple of Jesus has to be constantly listening to His voice and trying to understand His will.  What we want is not all that important; it's what He wants that counts.  A disciple doesn't always do logical things, by the world's standards.”  So his family moved to the northeast where he preached for 4-5 years in one congregation, and he is continuing to do pulpit work in another congregation in New Jersey. 
Now let's go back to the Old Testament and look for a moment at the life of Moses.  You will recall that his life can be divided into three periods of 40 years: 40 years in Egypt, 40 years in the wilderness, and 40 years leading the Israelites.  When Moses left Egypt, what did he have?  He had the best education that Egypt offered, he had position in the court, and he had authority.  According to the world's standards, he was an equipped leader.  But when he tried to liberate his people by killing a taskmaster, things didn't quite work out like he had planned.  He ended up in Midian, married, and took care of sheep.  Forty more years in the wilderness provided him another education.  Then God called him to liberate His people.  When he left Midian, what did he now have?  His family, more common sense, and his staff, which is called “the rod of God”.  Now by the world's standards, that sure sounds meager, but with God on your side, some mighty things can happen.  Moses' confidence in God increased, and this helped him also in conflicts that other Israelites instigated.  Remember when Korah accused Moses of exalting himself over all the Jews in Numbers 16, what did Moses do?  He told Korah that God would reveal His choice concerning a leader the next day.  Moses didn't take revenge, but just turned that false accusation over to God.  And God gave a powerful and a definitive answer when the ground opened up and buried Korah alive!  In fact, Numbers 12:3 reports this about Moses: “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.”
In the New Testament, we discover in the Gospels how one greater than Moses came into the world.  But before His appearance in this world, Paul tells us something very interesting about Jesus in Philippians 2:5-9: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but 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 death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name ...”  We are supposed to imitate something here.  “Let this mind be in you” or have this mentality or manifest this attitude.  So, what was Jesus' mentality or attitude?  “Jesus, who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.”  That is a little difficult to understand, so let's see what some other versions say: “Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be.  For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal” (JBP).  And another says: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (ESV).  Now the meaning is becoming clearer.  Here is one more version: “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.  He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what” (EPTM).  So, Paul shows us that Jesus was divine; He was on the same level as God.  But he did not hold on tightly to the advantages that this honored position offered.  He was willing to take upon Himself a lower status, to condescend and live without all His advantages.  He gave up His rights to divine glory (Bucknell).  And then what did He do?  The text says: “but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.”  Jesus became a person, but not a dignitary of the aristocratic class.  No, He allowed Himself to become just an ordinary Jew.  Where does a bondservant stand on the social scale?  Towards the bottom.  Someone observed that Jesus was born in borrowed stable, rode into Jerusalem humbly on a borrowed donkey (not a warhorse), and then was buried in a borrowed tomb (Plummer).  So, He was willing to go from the highest level as Creator to a lower level as a creature.  And this should be our mentality or attitude as well.  We should be willing to condescend and accept a lower level.  But Jesus' abasement doesn't stop here: “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death of the cross.”   Jesus went from the level of bond-servant to a lower level of criminal (not that He was a criminal, but that He was identified with them).  Death on a Roman cross was the ultimate humiliation: the beating, the location of the cross, the nakedness, the written accusation were all designed to highlight the shame of the person being crucified.  And added to Jesus' shame were also some other factors:
the disciples' abandonment, the religious leaders' mockery, the other criminals' crosses, the world's sins, and finally God's curse.  “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).  Paul mentions how Jesus redeemed us from the law's curse by becoming a curse for us (Galatians 3:13).  Now think about this.  Here is the mentality we are to imitate: from the level of being co-equal with God to the level of being cursed by God.  Whatever God wanted, Jesus surrendered to it.  “Let's study the character of Christ until our souls are filled with ... love and admiration [for] His lowliness” (Murray).  Can't Jesus' humility help us to defeat Satan's pride?  Someone rightly observes: “Christ is the humility of God embodied in human nature; the Eternal Love humbling itself, clothing itself in the garb of meekness and gentleness, to win [us, to serve us, to save us]. …  If humility be the first, the all-inclusive grace of the life of Jesus ... then  the health and strength of our spiritual life will entirely depend upon our putting this grace first too, and making humility the chief thing we admire in Him, the chief thing we ask of Him, the one thing for which we sacrifice all else. … Is it any wonder that the Christian life is often so feeble and fruitless, when the very root of [Jesus'] life is neglected, is unknown? … Is it any wonder that the joy of salvation is so little felt when [meekness] is so little sought” (Ibid.)?  [Is it any wonder that] there are too few prayers asking that Jesus' humility might deeply permeate in the heart of every member?  Now remember, Jesus' mentality of condescension and lowliness was already in His mind before He was born into this world.  “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10).  And Paul shows us in verse 9 that God did exactly this because of Jesus' lowliness: “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name ...”  Someone asks this good question: “We praise this high and holy God for His power and majesty.  Do we praise Him for His humility?  We can; we serve an humble God” (Tiegreen).  [We can; we serve a lowly King:] “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.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us ... For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:14 17).  Let's listen to the Master's words.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).  “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).  “And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.  But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.  And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:10-12).  “... whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.  And whoever desires to first shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44).  “But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, 'Friend, go up higher.' ... For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:10-11).  “I tell
you, this man [the publican who felt unworthy before God] went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbled himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).  “For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves?  Is not he who sits at the table?  Yet I am among you as the One who serves” (Luke 22:27).  “And what He taught so often was made true of Himself: 'He that humbles himself shall be exalted'” (Murray).  And so He was!  Now notice something else interesting about Jesus' words.  “Listen to the words in which our Lord speaks of His relation to the Father, and see how [often] He uses the words not, and nothing of Himself” (Ibid): “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19); “ I can of Myself do nothing.  As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30); “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38); “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me” (John 7:16); “And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges” (John 8:50); “The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the work” (John 14:10); “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me” (John 14:24).  These passages show how God worked through Jesus since “He was nothing, that God might be all.  He resigned Himself with His will and His powers entirely, for the Father to work in Him. ... This life of entire self-abnegation, of absolute submission and dependence upon the Father's will, Christ found to be one of perfect peace and joy.  He [gained everything] by giving all to God” (Murray).  Jesus gave His consent to let God be all; He imitated God's words and workings.  In Jesus, we see how both “as the Son of God in heaven, and as man upon earth, He took the place of entire subordination, and gave God the honor and the glory which was due to Him [and gave no credit to Himself]” (Murray).
“ 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. ... He felt Himself the Servant of God for the men whom God made and loved; as a natural consequence, He counted Himself the Servant of men, that through Him God might do His work of love.  He never thought for a moment of seeking His honor, or asserting His power to vindicate Himself” (Murray).  “And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him, Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.  After that, He poured water in a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded” (John 13:2-5).  “They had spent 3 years coming to the realization of His greatness; now He was redefining what greatness is.  It didn't look anything like what a victorious, reigning Messiah ought to look like” (Tiegreen).  Jesus washed the treacherous feet of Judas, the fickle feet of Peter, and the fleeting feet of most of the rest.  “They were dirty in more ways than one.  But Jesus knelt before them and washed them.  He served them with humility. ... We can entertain no personal indignation in the face of Jesus' example.  How can frail humans look down on others when even the King of kings would not?  How can we hold others in contempt when the Alpha and Omega carefully held [their feet] in His hands and cleaned them?  How can we maintain human pride when the exalted Lord refused to [do so]” (Tiegreen)?  “If I then your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.  Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him” (John 13:14-16).  “Dictionaries express the basic concept of humility ... as 'a low estimate of one’s worthiness; not being assertive; [being] insignificant.'   A Christian definition of humility, modeled by Jesus Christ, is someone who in his own eyes is lower than God his Creator, and thus is always willing to believe what God says or do what God asks” (Schoenheit).  “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).  “Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two.  And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, 'Father, into your hands, I commit My spirit.'  Having said this, He breathed His last” (Luke 23:46).  “So Jesus said to them again: 'Peace to you!  As the Father has sent Me, I also send you'” (John 20:21).
Someone admonishes us with these words: “Believer!  Study the humility of Jesus.  This is the secret, the hidden root of your redemption.  Sink down into it deeper day by day.  Believe with your whole heart that this Christ, whom God has given you, even as His divine humility wrought the work for you, will ... make you what the Father would have you be” (Murray).  Here are three concepts about the humility of Jesus that you can take with you during this next week.  First, Jesus thought humility.  His mentality of lowliness and abasement was already a reality before He came to earth.  That humility then took on flesh, a Roman cross, and God's curse.  Jesus thought humility.  Next, Jesus taught humility.  When Jesus says something three times, we ought to pay close attention:
“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  As Jesus spoke, let us speak: “I am nothing, and God is all.”  Jesus taught humility.  Lastly, Jesus wrought humility.  He washed feet, He drank the bitter cup, He sends us forth to challenge others with meekness, lowliness, and humility.  Jesus wrought humility.  “Give us holy freedom, Fill our heart with love, Draw us, [humble] Jesus, to the realms above.  Lead us on our journey: Be Thyself the Way Through terrestrial darkness to celestial day” (Prynne).  Jesus personified humility.  He extends His invitation once again: “Come to Me ... and I will give you rest.”  Surrender to Him or ask Him to help you to be more meek.  Imitate His humility!