Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Living Jesus' Humility
The Life of Jesus:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
(Phi 2:5-8 NAS)
Jesus was great. He was equal to God in the heavens and no one in the heavens could gainsay him anything. He could have remained that way for all eternity. But instead, he set aside all his greatness and he determined to be lowly. He could have done anything he wanted—and he chose to be one of the most insignificant things on earth—a human.
In the Bible, the Spirit world is not a world that one cannot see or touch, a frail world. Rather, it is a world of greater strength and power. If you compare the words “flesh” and “spirit”, you will see that “flesh” is indicative of weakness and frailty, while “spirit” is authority and unimaginable power (Genesis 6:3; Isaiah 31:3; Matthew 26:41). When people face “spirit-beings”, they do not meet a ghostly presence, but a powerful being that they fear greatly because of its strength (Luke 1:11-12). Even so, when Jesus exchanged authority in the spirit world to become human, he exchanged greatness for frailty, authority for weakness.
Even this humility, however was not enough for Jesus, in obeying the Father, Jesus allowed himself to serve others, when he deserved to have others serve him (Mark 10:45). And his main service was this—that he would die for the benefit of others. This meant that he allowed himself to be punished, when he deserved no such thing. But he was willing to do anything, pay any price for the sake of others.
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him." And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt; and was there until the death of Herod, that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "Out of Egypt did I call My Son." Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi.
(Mat 2:13-16 NAS)
In becoming a human, Jesus became a baby, not a great man of authority. In becoming a baby, he was helpless and weak. While as a spirit-being he could defend himself and grant himself power, as a human baby, he was dependant only on frail, lowly humans to protect him.
And when one of the greatest and most ruthless kings of the world at that time threatened him, Jesus really had no protection. Jesus commanded no armies to threaten him. Jesus had no spirit-power that could destroy Herod at a glance. The only thing that could be done is to run away. This does not seem to be noble or what the great would do, but it was what power Joseph and Mary had. They ran out of the country.
And in time, they returned to Israel, but not to the great town of Bethlehem, the city of David’s birth. Rather, they returned to Nazareth, whose very mention in Israel calls for a sarcastic comment (John 1:45-46). To be raised in this town and associated with it is to be seen as insignificant.
Summary: Jesus wanted to be ruler of the world, the Messiah. But the way he chose to gain it was the long way, not the direct route. He wanted to be great, so he determined to be lowly. He gave up all of his greatness, all of his authority to become something lowly and insignificant.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
(Mat 18:1-4 NAS)
In the ancient days, a child was not something to be honored or fawned over. A child could tell no one what to do and they were not raised carefully. Although children were given food and shelter, they were largely ignored and often despised until they were ready to be tutored at about ten. Even then, they were treated like slaves—even by slaves themselves—until they became adults at 13. At this point, they were given the responsibilities of an adult and they were treated with a little respect.
To be a child is to be the lowest of the low. It is to be in a state of humiliation and in a position of shame. This attitude can be seen by the disciples, because they were turning away children from Jesus, because Jesus was “too great” to be bothered by such insignificant humans. The last thing anyone would want to become is a child.
Even as Jesus determined to be lowly, and to gain his greatness through insignificance, even so we must as well. We must rely completely on God to give us our greatness, confident that even though others deride us and mock us and hate us and put us down, we know who we really are in God. And God himself will give us that position in the future.
Therese of Lisieux
Therese, from a young child, had determined that she wanted to be a saint. But what way should she become one? She could be like Joan of Arc and fight for her people, or she could be like Jerome or Augustine and be a scholar and a great writer. But she learned that in order to gain authority before God, you had to be lowest of all. And so she sought humility. If someone complained about her, she refused to defend herself. If an authority wrongly accused her, she accepted the punishment without complaint. No one recognized her lowliness, except for one woman, who asked her to write her autobiography. She did so for the sake of this woman, and soon afterwards she became sick and died. But because of her lowliness and her seeking God’s glory and not her own, she became the most famous saint of the twentieth century.
Living It Out:
Do not boast of yourself, but of God (I Corinthians 1:31)
Do not insist on privileges or your rights. (I Corinthians 9:1-12)
Allow authorities to punish you unjustly. (Matthew 5:38-42)
Give up all you have that makes you great. (Mark 10:29-30)
Look to serve others, even if it is against what is better for you. (Philippians 2:3-4)
Do good to others, even if you are mocked for it. (Luke 15:1-2)
Do not give yourself or seek out titles. (Matthew 23:8-10)
Do not put yourself in the places of honor, but allow yourself to be appointed by others. (Luke 14:7-11)
Do not do actions to be honored by people, but do all things for praise from God alone. (Matthew 6:1-18)
Do not seek to be the person at the center of attention. (James 3:1)
Treat everyone equally, whether they look (or smell) nice or not. (James 2:1-7)
Look for ways to serve the lowest of people. (Matthew 25:31-46)
Go out of your way to be friendly with, to touch, to chat with, to be equal to the outcast. (Mark 1:40-42)
If God is going to exalt you, don’t tell anyone—as much as you can—let God do it. (Mark 3:11-12)
Submit to authorities when you can, even if you don’t have to. (Matthew 17:24-27)
Do tasks that may seem to be demeaning, if they have to be done. (Mark 10:45)
Allow others to speak words of hatred and shame, and say nothing back. Don’t defend yourself, don’t return with a witty comeback. (Mark 14:55-61)
If someone persecutes you, run away. (Matthew 10:23)