by Andrew Murray

Humility in the Teaching of Jesus

Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls (Matt. 11:29).

Whoever wants to be first must become your slave. For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give My life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:27-28).

Jesus opened His heart to us, and when we looked inside, we found a wonderful humility there. Now let’s listen to His teaching. Let’s learn what He has to say about humility and what His expectations are of His disciples. I am going to do little more than quote some of His teachings, but I trust you to discover what they should mean to you and to press the seeds down deeply in your own heart.

  1. Look at how Jesus started His season of public teaching. When He called His disciples to Him on the mountainside, He began: “God blesses those who realize their need for Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them…God blesses those who are gentle and lowly, for the whole earth will belong to them” (Matt. 5:3,5). The very first words of Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth were meant to reveal the open gate where we can enter in. The poor in spirit, who have nothing in themselves, can receive the Kingdom. The meek, who seek nothing for themselves, can inherit the whole planet. The blessings of heaven and earth are for the lowly. For a life of blessing in both the seen and unseen realms, humility is the secret.
  2. “Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29). Jesus offers Himself as our Teacher. He tells us the Spirit we will find in Him as Teacher, and offers us the amazing privilege of learning and receiving that Spirit from Him! Meekness and lowliness are what He offers; in them, we will find perfect rest for our souls. Humility is to be our deliverance.
  3. The disciples had been arguing about who would be greatest in the Kingdom. To settle the matter once and for all, they agreed to go to the Master (Luke 9:46; Matt. 18:3). How startled they must have felt when He set a child in their midst and said, “Anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” It is a question with far-reaching implications. What will be the most valued personal characteristic in God’s holy nation on earth? No one but Jesus would have guessed the answer. The highest glory of heaven, the genuine mark of having heaven in your heart, is humility. God esteems it above all else. “Whoever is least among you is the greatest” (Luke 9:48).
  4. The sons of Zebedee had asked Jesus for the most important places in the Kingdom, at His right and His left. Jesus said that they were not His to give, but the Father’s, who would give them to those for whom He had prepared them. They must not look or ask for those places. Instead, they should think about the cup and baptism of humiliation that He would face. Then He added, “Whoever wants to be first must become your slave. For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give My life as a ransom for many.” Humility was the character of Jesus in the heavenlies. It will also be the one standard of glory in Heaven. The place nearest to God is also the lowliest. Jesus promises the prime position in His Kingdom to the humblest.
  5. Once Jesus spoke to the crowds and to the disciples about the Pharisees and their love of positions of honor. He said again, “The greatest among you must be a servant” (Matt. 23:11). Genuine humble service, without thought of reward, is the only “ladder to success” in God’s Kingdom.
  6. At a Pharisee’s house, Jesus told the parable of the guest who would be invited to take a better place at the banquet and added, “For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored” (Luke 14:11). His demand is unchangeable; there is no other way. Only people who choose to humble themselves will be honored.
  7. After telling the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus said again, “For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored” (Luke 18:14). In the temple in the presence and worship of God, everything is worthless that isn’t full of a deep, true humility toward God and men.
  8. When Jesus washed the disciples feet, He said, “And since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet” (John 13:14). The authority of Jesus’ command, example, and thought makes humility the first and most essential condition of true discipleship.
  9. At their last Passover meal with their Master, the disciples were still arguing among themselves about who was the greatest. Jesus cut the debate short: “In this world the kings and great men order their people around, and yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’   But among you, those who are the greatest should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant…For I am your servant” (Luke 22:25-27). The path where Jesus walked—and opened a way for us to walk—is the way of humility that always makes me the servant of all. That humility was the power and Spirit in which He brought salvation, and the same humility is what He saves us for.

How little this humility is taught. How little it is lived! How little the lack of it is felt or confessed. I’m not saying that no one ever makes any progress towards Christ-likeness in this area. But I am saying that too few people think to make humility a goal that they desire and pray for. How little the world has seen it! How little it has been seen even in the “inner circles” of Christianity.

“Whoever wants to be first must become your slave.” God wants us to believe that Jesus meant what He said! We can imagine what it would take to be a faithful servant or slave in the literal sense—devotion to the master’s interests, thoughtful efforts to please him, delight in his prosperity and honor and happiness. A few men and women have had that attitude, and to them the name of “servant” has been something to glory in.

To many of us it has been a new joy in our walk with Jesus to know that we can yield ourselves as servants, as slaves to God. We have discovered that service to Him is true freedom—the freedom from sin and self. We need now to learn another lesson. Jesus also calls us to be servants of one another. If we accept this command willingly it, too, will be delight to obey. It will mean a new and fuller freedom from sin and self. At first this service may seem hard, but that’s only because of lingering pride that still considers itself to be something.

We can learn that to be nothing before God is our glory, Jesus’ Spirit, and Heaven’s joy. Then we will welcome with our whole hearts the discipline that comes our way when serving the unlovable. When our own hearts are set on this kind of service, every word Jesus spoke about humility will take on new life for us. No position will seem too low. No stooping will be too deep and no service too humble or too hard to endure, if only we can know the fellowship of the One who said, “For I am your servant.”

Brothers and sisters, the path to the “higher life” is down, lower down! Jesus was always faithful to remind His disciples of that fact whenever they were thinking about greatness in the Kingdom, of sitting at His right or left hand. Don’t seek or ask for honor; that’s God’s responsibility. See to it that you humble yourself and take no place before God or man except that of a servant. Your responsibility is humble service. Let that also be your one goal and prayer. God is faithful. Just as water always runs to the lowest place, so the moment God finds people humble and empty, His Glory and Power will flow into them to lift them up and bless them. Humble yourself. That’s your part. Honoring us—that’s God’s part. By His mighty power and great love He will do it.

People sometimes talk as if humility and meekness will rob us of everything bold and admirable and worthwhile. Oh, that all would believe that humility is what God admires! If only we would understand that humility is the royal attitude of the King of Heaven, that it is Godlike to humble yourself and become the servant of all! That path is the only one leading to the joy and glory of Christ’s presence inside us and His power resting on us.

Jesus, the meek and lowly One, calls us to learn from Him the path to God. Let us absorb the words we have been reading until our hearts are filled with the thought: My one need is humility. And let us believe that what Jesus shows, He also gives. What He is, He can impart. As the meek and lowly One, He will come in and live in the longing heart.

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