IT IS the final night of Jesus’ life on earth, and he spends it with his apostles in the upper room of a house in Jerusalem. During the course of the evening meal, Jesus gets up and puts aside his outer garments. He girds himself with a towel. Then he puts water into a basin and begins to wash the feet of the disciples and to dry them off with the towel. He then puts on his outer garments. Why did Jesus perform this humble act?—John 13:3-5.
Jesus himself explained:
So when He had finished washing their feet and had put on His garments and had sat down again, He said to them, Do you understand what I have done to you? You call Me the Teacher (Master) and the Lord, and you are right in doing so, for that is what I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher (Master), have washed your feet, you ought [it is your duty, you are under obligation, you owe it] to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you this as an example, so that you should do [in your turn] what I have done to you. (John 13:12-15)
By displaying a willingness to perform such a lowly task, Jesus gave his apostles an object lesson that would be deeply engraved on their minds and would encourage them to be humble in the days ahead.
When Jesus washed the feet of the apostles, it was not the first time he highlighted the value of humility. On an earlier occasion when some of the apostles showed a competitive spirit, Jesus set a young child beside him, and He told them:
Whoever receives and accepts and welcomes this child in My name and for My sake receives and accepts and welcomes Me; and whoever so receives Me so also receives Him Who sent Me. For he who is least and lowliest among you all—he is [the one who is truly] great. (Luke 9:46-48)
Aware that the Pharisees sought prominence, Jesus said later in his ministry:
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled (ranked below others who are honored or rewarded), and he who humbles himself (keeps a modest opinion of himself and behaves accordingly) will be exalted (elevated in rank). (Luke 14:11)
Clearly, Jesus wants his followers to be humble, that is, lowly in mind and free of pride and arrogance. With a view to imitating him, let us carefully examine his example of humility. We will also see how this quality benefits not only the one displaying it but others as well.
“I DID NOT TURN IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION”
God’s only-begotten Son showed humility even before he came to earth. In his prehuman existence, Jesus spent an untold number of years with his heavenly Father. The Bible book of Isaiah comments on the close relationship the Son had with his Father, saying:
[The Servant of God says] The Lord God has given Me the tongue of a disciple and of one who is taught, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He wakens Me morning by morning, He wakens My ear to hear as a disciple [as one who is taught]. The Lord God has opened My ear, and I have not been rebellious or turned backward. (Isa. 50:4, 5)
The Son of God displayed a humble attitude and paid close attention to what God taught him. He was eager and willing to learn from the true God. How closely Jesus must have observed the example of God’s humility in exercising mercy toward sinful mankind!
Not every creature in heaven had the same attitude as the only-begotten Son of God. Instead of desiring to learn from God, the angel who became Satan the Devil allowed himself to be influenced by traits opposite to humility—self-importance and pride—and actually rebelled against God. On the other hand, Jesus was neither dissatisfied with his own position in heaven nor inclined to misuse his authority. As Michael the archangel, Jesus did not go beyond his authority when he had ‘a difference with the Devil about Moses’ body.’ Instead, God’s Son showed humility and modesty. He was pleased to have God, the Supreme Judge of the universe, handle matters in His own way and time.— Please read Jude 9.
The things Jesus learned during his prehuman existence undoubtedly included the prophecies foretelling details of his life on earth as the Messiah. Hence, he likely knew in advance that unpleasant experiences awaited him. Yet, Jesus accepted the assignment to live on earth and die as the promised Messiah. Why? Highlighting the humility of God’s only-begotten Son, the apostle Paul wrote:
Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being.—Phil. 2:6-7.
AS A HUMAN, “HE HUMBLED HIMSELF”
“When [Jesus] found himself in fashion as a man,” wrote Paul, “he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, even death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:8) From his childhood on, Jesus left us a pattern of humility. Although he was raised by imperfect parents—Joseph and Mary—Jesus humbly continued “obedient to them.” (Luke 2:51)
As an adult, Jesus showed humility by giving priority to the doing of God’s will, not his own. (John 4:34) During his ministry, Jesus Christ used God’s personal name and helped sincere people to gain an accurate knowledge of God’s attributes and His purpose for mankind. Jesus also lived in harmony with what he taught about God. In the model prayer, for example, the first point Jesus mentioned was:
Our Father Who is in heaven, hallowed (kept holy) be Your name. (Matt. 6:9)
Jesus thus instructed his followers to make the sanctification of God’s name a matter of prime concern. He himself lived that way. Toward the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus could say in prayer to God:
I have made Your Name known to them and revealed Your character and Your very Self, and I will continue to make [You] known, that the love which You have bestowed upon Me may be in them [felt in their hearts] and that I [Myself] may be in them. (John 17:26)
Moreover, throughout his ministry Jesus gave God the credit for what he accomplished on earth.—John 5:19.
Regarding the Messiah, Zechariah prophetically wrote:
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O Daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King comes to you; He is [uncompromisingly] just and having salvation [triumphant and victorious], patient, meek, lowly, and riding on a donkey, upon a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zech. 9:9)
This was fulfilled when Jesus entered Jerusalem before the Passover in the year 33 C.E. The crowd spread their outer garments as well as tree branches on the road. Indeed, the whole city was set in commotion at his entry. Even when he received public acclaim as King, Jesus was humble.—Matt. 21:4-11.
Jesus Christ’s course of humility and obedience on earth culminated in his death on the cross. He thus proved beyond a doubt that humans can remain loyal to God even when tested to the extreme. Jesus also showed that Satan was wrong in claiming that humans serve God for selfish reasons. (Job 1:9-11; 2:4) Christ’s record of perfect integrity also upheld the rightfulness and righteousness of God’s universal sovereignty. God certainly rejoiced when observing the unswerving loyalty of his humble Son.—Please read Proverbs 27:11.
By his death on a torture stake, Jesus also paid the ransom price for mankind. (Matt. 20:28) This provided an opportunity for sinful humans to live forever, and it satisfied the demands of righteousness.
Well then, as one man’s trespass [one man’s false step and falling away led] to condemnation for all men, so one Man’s act of righteousness [leads] to acquittal and right standing with God and life for all men. (Rom. 5:18)
I AM “LOWLY IN HEART”
Jesus invited all those “toiling and loaded down” to come to him. He said:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. (Matt. 11:28, 29)
The qualities of humility and mildness moved Jesus to be kind and impartial in dealing with imperfect humans. He was reasonable in what he expected of his disciples. Jesus commended and encouraged them. He did not make them feel incompetent or unworthy. Jesus certainly was not harsh or oppressive. On the contrary, he assured his followers that by drawing close to him and practicing his teachings, they would be refreshed, for his yoke was kindly and his load was light. People of both sexes and of all ages felt at ease in his presence.—Matt. 11:30.
In his association with the common people of Israel, Jesus had compassion for them because they were disadvantaged, and he gave loving attention to their needs. Near Jericho, he encountered a blind beggar named Bartimaeus and his unnamed blind companion. They persistently asked for Jesus’ help, but the crowd sternly urged the men to be quiet. How easy it would have been to ignore the pleas of the blind men! Instead, Jesus asked that they be brought to him, and moved with pity, he restored their sight. Yes, Jesus imitated his Father, God, by displaying humility and showing mercy to lowly sinners.—Matt. 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52.
“WHOEVER HUMBLES HIMSELF WILL BE EXALTED”
Jesus Christ’s life course of humility is a cause of joy and is highly beneficial. God rejoiced at seeing his beloved Son humbly subject himself to God’s divine will. The apostles and disciples were refreshed by Jesus’ mild temper and lowliness of heart. His example, his teachings, and his warm commendation stimulated them to progress spiritually. Common people benefited from Jesus’ humility because they became recipients of his help, his teachings, and his encouragement. Actually, all redeemable mankind will reap long-term benefits from Jesus’ ransom sacrifice.
What about Jesus? Did his humility benefit him? Yes, for Jesus told his disciples:
Whoever exalts himself [with haughtiness and empty pride] shall be humbled (brought low), and whoever humbles himself [whoever has a modest opinion of himself and behaves accordingly] shall be raised to honor.. (Matt. 23:12)
Those words proved to be true in his own case. Paul explains:
Therefore [because He stooped so low] God has highly exalted Him and has freely bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, That in (at) the name of Jesus every knee should (must) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, And every tongue [frankly and openly] confess and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. —Phil. 2:9-11.
Because of Jesus’ course of humility and faithfulness on earth, God exalted his Son, giving him authority over creatures in heaven and on earth.
JESUS WILL “RIDE IN THE CAUSE OF TRUTH AND HUMILITY”
Humility will continue to characterize the activities of the Son of God. Foretelling how Jesus will act against His enemies from an exalted heavenly position, the psalmist sang:
And in Your majesty ride on triumphantly for the cause of truth, humility, and righteousness (uprightness and right standing with God); and let Your right hand guide You to tremendous things. (Ps. 45:4)
Along with truth and righteousness, Jesus Christ will ride in the cause of humility at Armageddon. And what will happen at the end of his Thousand Year Reign when the Messianic King “has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power”? Will he display humility? Yes, for he will ‘hand over the kingdom to his God and Father.’—Please read 1 Corinthians 15:24-28.
What about us? Will we follow the pattern set by our Exemplar and manifest humility? How will we fare when Jesus Christ comes to execute judgment at Armageddon? The cause in which he rides dictates that he will save only those who are humble and righteous. Our developing humility, then, is essential to our survival. Moreover, just as Jesus Christ’s life course of humility brought benefits to him and others, our displaying humility will be beneficial to others and ourselves in many various ways. — William Lucas.