Amazed at His Humility
When we consider all of the characteristics and attributes in Jesus which would inspire our worship, why would we begin with His humility? In actuality, there was no debate in my mind about which characteristic would come first. When it comes to this Person of the Godhead, His status as the One who put on flesh—where Creator became creature, the Infinite confined Himself to a finite cell, the Omnipotent became a vulnerable baby—this aspect of His nature, this humility, is mind-blowing and crucial to all that He did to bring us salvation.
Jesus’ humility was essential to His coming to earth as a man, but it is also indispensable to His love, His obedience, to His willingness to suffer, and so much more. Andrew Murray said, “Christ was nothing, that God might be all. He resigned Himself with His will and His powers 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, 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.'”
His humility was the antithesis of what caused Lucifer, and Adam and Eve, to fall. Lucifer’s great sin was in wanting the praise that was due to God alone, yet Jesus, to whom all praise is rightfully due, “did not see equality with God as something to be grasped.” The One who had the praise and glory and honor and power did not cling to it but humbly laid it aside. Likewise with Adam and Eve, they chose to lean on their own understanding and do what was right in their own eyes instead of submitting to God’s express command. Yet Jesus, instead of self-will, chose to humbly submit in obedience to the will of His Father.
But his humility is not only the antithesis of the pride that brought the horrors of sin and death into the world, it is the antidote. By humbling Himself to come to earth and live a life of obedience, He perfectly fulfilled the law and the will of God. He was obedient all the way to death on the cross, providing the remedy for all who would follow Him in this humility, for only those who humble themselves and cry out for mercy—realizing there is nothing in themselves that can earn them forgiveness—only they will be saved.
Jesus resisted what was wrong and sinful, but he also He willingly surrendered what was His by rights, His prerogatives as deity. This is the kind of humility that so often trips us up. It is one thing to humble ourselves before God and give up what we know is sinful, although it appeals strongly to our flesh—to choose other than Adam and Eve and not violate the expressed word of God. But it is another thing entirely to humbly lay down things we view as our rights—things that could well be said by all to be legitimately ours to claim or desire—to strap on that towel and wash the feet of those who could just as well wash our feet. Paul gave another example, saying that while he had no problem with the idea of eating meat sold in the pagan temples, he abstained from it if it would be a stumbling block to a brother struggling with conscience. His rights and his freedom were humbly laid aside for the good of others.
When Satan tempted Jesus to turn the rocks into bread, he wasn’t tempting Jesus with an act that was in itself wrong. Jesus had fasted 40 days. He was human, so He was legitimately hungry, but He was also God, so He had the means to take care of His own needs. The temptation was to act independently of the Father, to once again take up His prerogatives as deity. In sharp contrast to the creatures (angel and man) who tried to usurp God’s role in their lives, the One for whom this was a right laid it aside and humbly waited on the Father to supply.
To contemplate the humility of Christ is to not only be stunned into amazement and worship, it is to fall under a mighty conviction for our own propensity to indulge our pride, to willfully persist in our sin and tenaciously insist on our rights. When the humility of Christ shines into our lives, these baser natures and motives of pride stand in stark contrast to all that is good in Him. Our own pride makes His humility even more glorious.
Paul tells us to have the same attitude of humility as Christ Jesus. Jesus took on the role of a servant. The word in the Greek really means “slave.” Jesus was a slave to the Father, and He humbled Himself to become a slave to fallen, unworthy creatures. Sometimes there is a bit of prestige attached to serving someone of rank. For instance, if someone served in Buckingham Palace, people might think that was a sweet gig. But what would it be like to be a servant to a bum on Skid Row? That’s lower than low—no prestige there—and yet that is basically what Jesus did. He came to serve the least of these . . . and folks, if we haven’t identified ourselves with the least of these, we aren’t humble yet, for that is who we are.
Jesus told His disciples that they should follow Him in this. He demonstrated it when He humbled Himself and washed their feet, when He actually touched lepers, when He allowed the wicked and depraved to work their worst on Him through insult and abuse, torture and murder on the cross. But until we take time to allow the impact of His humility to settle on our hearts and minds, we will not see the need or the extent to which we should embrace it in our own lives.
Andrew Murray says, “We must make humility the chief thing we admire in Him, the chief thing we ask of Him, the one thing for which we sacrifice all.” I believe there is a sequence in that. If we come to the point that Christ’s humility is the chief thing we admire in Him, only then will we begin to long for it and ask for it in our own lives. And I believe it is something that is so foreign to our nature that we will need to plead for the revelation of the beauty of Christ’s humility to enter our hearts and minds and then be manifest in our lives.
A friend of mine once said that she wanted to have the humility of Christ, but she feared the humiliation that goes with it. And she is so right. When we see a truly humble person, we often admire them. When we think of humility in abstract terms, we may be attracted to it for our own lives as well. But when we realize that when we ask for Christ’s humility to be manifest in us, we are inviting humiliation, we balk. Jesus didn’t balk. For the love of His Father, for the love of those He would redeem, Jesus embraced humiliation. Let the wonder of that sink in a bit. Then let the conviction of it grip us as well.
It is impossible to do more than just scratch the surface on this topic. To really grasp the beauty of Jesus’ humility (or rather, be grasped by it) will require time spent in gazing upon it, letting it soak in, and allowing the wonder to unfold as the Lord blesses us with revelation. I encourage you to pray for this insight, to meditate on passages such as Philippians 2:5-11, and perhaps also to read books such as Andrew Murray’s Humility (Amazon, B&N) or R.T. Kendall’s The Power of Humility (Amazon, B&N).
Lord, grant us a fresh vision of Your humility, that we may be truly amazed that the Eternal, Sovereign, Almighty, Creator would stoop, would abase Himself, in perfect submission, in love, in mercy, that we might be saved. May we grow to cherish this quality in You that we will do all in our power to possess it in ourselves—for Your glory alone!
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries