I am connected with the Bible Bee Alumni group, made up of any former BB students who have aged out of the program. They publish a bi-monthly newsletter, and I was asked to write an article for the upcoming issue which is focused on accounts from the life of Christ.
I wanted to share it with you all ~ Merry CHRISTmas!
Christ’s Willing Humility
A look at how Jesus laid down His rights by serving, sacrificing, and submitting, and how He teaches us to follow His example.
It was a joy to study for this article around the Christmas season because everywhere around me there are reminders of Christ! In songs, devotionals, sermons, symbols, it all kept pointing to the great contrast of God the Creator taking on the form of man, His creation. This advent season I have been reading Paul Tripp’s Advent devotional “Come Let Us Adore Him” and also heard and sang several songs that guided my thoughts (I have included some of them). I chose John 13:1-5 as my main text, but really this study took me all over the Gospels as well as the rest of the New Testament, since Christ and His willing humility can be found everywhere! In John chapters 13-17, Jesus is spending His final hours speaking with the disciples, so everything He does and says is especially filled with meaning for them. As they celebrate the Passover, Jesus does the last thing anyone would expect Him to do. He prepares Himself as a slave would, and washes the feet of all His disciples. The part that struck me about this passage is in verse 3: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper....” In taking on humanity, it is not as though Jesus lost His understanding of who He was; He knew He was God! And He also knew the reward and the glory that His Father would give Him after His suffering for atonement was complete. But with all that knowledge, He did not grasp it as a right to exclude Himself from service. He actually laid aside those rights and stooped to one of the most humbling, menial tasks. Many times throughout his ministry He talked to his disciples about service and demonstrated it. Mark 10:45 - "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Luke 22:24-27 - “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And He said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.’”
Simply taking on humanity was a humbling sacrifice. 2 Cor. 8:9 - For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.
(From the hymn “Thou Who Wast Rich” by Frank Houghton)
“Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becomes poor.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love’s sake becamest man;
Stooping so low, but sinners raising
Heavenwards by thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love’s sake becamest man.
Hebrews 2:9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
(From the hymn “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne” by Emily Elliott)
Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.
When we consider who God really is and who we really are, this condescension is made all the greater. Psalm 8:3-4 - “When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You set in place— What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him?”
This hymn is one of my favorites:
(From the hymn “How Can it Be” by Avis Christiansen)
O Savior, as my eyes behold
the wonders of Thy might untold,
the heav’ns in glorious light arrayed,
the vast creation Thou hast made –
and yet to think Thou lovest me –
my heart cries out, ‘How can it be?’
As at the cross I humbly bow
and gaze upon Thy thorn-crowned brow,
and view the precious bleeding form
by cruel nails so bruised and torn,
knowing Thy suff’ring was for me,
in grief I cry, ‘How can it be?’
How can it be? How can it be?
Was ever grace so full and free!
From heights of bliss to depths of woe
in loving kindness Thou didst go,
from sin and shame to rescue me –
O Love Divine, How can it be?
How can it be? How can it be?
That God should love a soul like me,
O how can it be?
And this one says it just as beautifully:
(From the hymn “And Can it Be” by Charles Wesley)
And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself and came in love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
This all comes back to His submission to the Father’s plan for Him. Over and over Jesus alluded to this. John 6:38 - “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me.” John 7:16 - So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but His who sent me.” God the Father had planned redemption before time began, and every part of Jesus’ mission on earth led to that final goal. Yet He was not an unwilling participant. God the Father did not demand this from His Son; it was a willing offering in harmony with His Father’s will. John 10:17-18 - "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
John 12:27-28a [Speaking of His coming death] “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? No, it is for this purpose that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify Your name!” The culmination was in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus struggled with the reality of His coming suffering and separation from the Father. Luke 22:41-44 “And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Jesus was not emotionless; He is a man familiar with all aspects of our nature, so submitting to His Father did not come without a struggle.
I know how quick my heart is to hold on to my “rights”, and none of them are even deserved! Yet Jesus, the only human that ever deserved good and could claim His rights, is the only one that willingly gave them up for those who wrongfully demand their rights. We are indeed undeserving recipients of boundless grace! And the one verse that always blows my mind is Luke 12:37 - “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, He will [gird] himself for service and have them recline at table, and He will come and serve them.” Christ will serve us in heaven - what a thought! And in a final act of humility, He will submit to His Father at the end of time. 1 Cor. 15:27-28 “For ‘God has put all things in subjection under His feet.’ But when it says, ‘all things are put in subjection,’ it is plain that He is excepted Who put all things in subjection under Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subjected to Him Who put all things in subjection under Him, that God may be all in all.”
Returning back to the narrative in John 13, Jesus was using this as a teaching moment, giving His disciples an example to follow. John 13:12-17 - “When He had washed their feet and put on His outer garments and resumed His place, He said to them, ‘Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.’”
The New Testament writers often pointed back to Christ’s sacrifice as an example of love, humility, and self-denial. 2 Cor. 2:14-15 - “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” Ephesians 5:1-2 - “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” John 12:23-26 - “And Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there will My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.’" Philippians 2:3-8 - “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 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, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” 1 Peter 2:21-24a - “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”
In this final passage, Peter reminisces about Christ girding Himself with a towel as a servant - 1 Peter 5:5b - “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” We are to put on humility as a working virtue employed in ministry. "Put on and wrap yourselves about with humility, so that the covering of humility cannot possibly be stripped from you." (Bengel in Vincent’s Word Studies). I have been so blessed to see the humility of Christ in a new light this year, and it is a daily reminder to follow His example and serve!
This final hymn is convicting and encouraging as it directly connects Christ’s sacrifice with His call to us:
(From the hymn “I Gave My Life for Thee” by Frances Havergal)
I gave My life for thee,
My precious blood I shed,
That thou might ransomed be,
And raised up from the dead.
I gave, I gave My life for thee,
What hast thou given for Me?
My Father’s house of light,
My glory circled throne
I left for earthly night,
For wanderings sad and lone;
I left, I left it all for thee,
Hast thou left aught for Me?
And this is another version that answers the question:
O let my life be given,
My years for Thee be spent,
World fetters all be riven,
And joy with suffering blent!
Thou gavest Thyself for me;
I give myself to Thee.
Amen! We give ourselves to You, O God.