Luke 18: 18-22
I’m cutting off this well-known interaction Jesus had a little early because I want to hone in on Jesus’s response to the original question. “Why do you call me good?”
Think about this for a second. At this point Jesus’ ministry is fully underway and news of his miracles has spread throughout the countryside. The young ruler approaches Jesus knowing these things and realizes Jesus’ righteous nature, at least at some level. When the young ruler addresses Jesus as “good teacher”, it really isn’t done in error right? Jesus was the Son of God! So why does Jesus feel the need to correct him?
Because Jesus was humble.
Which is honestly a little ridiculous when you think on just who Jesus is and what other Scriptures have to say about Him. In Colossians 1 it says that literally “all things hold together” through Jesus and Hebrews 1 echoes this when it says He “holds all things together by the word of His power”. In Revelation, Jesus comes back riding a horse with flames in his eyes and a sword coming out of his mouth, ready to take back the earth for the glory of God (Revelation 19). Surely, of every human that lived, Jesus has a pass when it comes to humility.
Yet still he corrects the ruler: “Why do you call me good?”
If I’m this ruler, I’d be a bit flustered. “Um.. You’re Jesus. I’ve heard good things. What with the healing and miracles and perfection and all.”
I think Jesus’ remark gives us insight into just how much Jesus humbled himself.
Since we are Christians (a word that literally means “little Christs”), and we are called to imitate Jesus in all ways, I wanted to discuss the humility of Jesus and our own humility. Specifically, I want to look at Jesus humility before God as well as his humility before men.
It’s ironic to me to focus on humility as a topic in and of itself. I find it ironic because of my own understanding of humility which is summed up pretty well in a quote from C.S. Lewis:
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less”
So how do we grow in humility, personally, while attempting to “think of ourselves less”? Do you get why it’s kind of a funny idea to try to become better in this area? If I want to get stronger, I can follow a lifting schedule and do certain exercises to achieve that. If I want to be more generous, I can begin to give more resources away. But humility isn’t so much an action as it is a state of being.
Webster’s Dictionary definition goes as follows:
a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.
I think this is a fair understanding of humility, but I would add something as it relates to our following Christ. I think it’s fair to say that humility, “a modest or low view of one’s own importance”, is born and rooted in an accurate understanding of one’s own importance. Humility represents a certain type of posture we can take as it regards our own significance. But there’s something that lays underneath humility.
Humility is directly correlated with seeing ourselves in light of God the Father and who He is.
Why do you think Jesus corrects the young ruler? Is he being nitpicky? Is this a “humble brag”?
It’s fairly reasonable for us to say that Jesus was good. However, Jesus’ assertion was not to establish that he himself was not good, but rather to place the Father in His rightful position as “the Great I Am”. Jesus, the Son, lived out his life in full submission to the Father. We see this all over the place in scripture, but I think the most jarring picture is when Jesus is in Gethsemane, the night before he would be arrested and begin the process of the crucifixion.
Jesus does not want to suffer as he’s going to. I don’t think we discuss this often enough and it’s a whole other topic, but it’s okay to say to God, “I don’t want to do this.” It’s okay to say suffering is suffering and to express ourselves in pain. I think one of the most damaging things you can do in suffering is “fake it ‘til you make it.” Jesus didn’t see fit to do so.
Anyways, Jesus goes on to say, “not my will, but yours, be done.” So even though the Son does not want to be crucified, he submits himself to the Father’s will knowing the immense suffering he would endure. Jesus, in humility, goes on to begin the bloody process of God’s “reconciling all things to Himself”. Jesus understands his position before the Father and submits himself to God’s authority. Bear in mind, Jesus does so as the perfect “God-man”, not as just a man.
Do you see a connection between Jesus’ humility before God and your own? Any thoughts on your position before a Holy, Infinite, All-Knowing, All-Powerful God? (That’s a loaded question lol)
It makes sense that Jesus, the Son, would submit himself to God the Father. But the way Jesus interacts with his fellow men is shocking (or at least it should be). There’s so many examples of Jesus’ humility before men, but the one that I immediately think of is found in John 13.
There’s a lot to unpack here and not enough time for us to do it fully, so I just wanted to make a few observations.
- What would you do if you knew you were going to die within a week?
- Not to be guilty trippy, but what Jesus does is astonishingly different from what we would tend to say. Jesus, upon realizing his time was short, begins to wash the disciples feet. In this he reflects what I believe is the actual, true heart of humility: It’s not about me.
- Get over the guilt/shame you might feel right now, (not the point) and think about this for a second. Jesus moves to serve those He’s about to die for. These men are the reason He is going to suffer. He is washing the feet of the men responsible for the nails that are about to be in his hands.
- Why? Jesus, the living Word of God, the very Son of God, the one who the Bible says “by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” was humble enough to say “It’s not about me! It’s about the Father and His Glory! It’s about the enemies of God being made into sons and daughters of God!” Jesus was in no way self-centered but was totally understanding of His place in the Father’s will. And was willing to even serve those he came to save. On what grounds can we treat those around us any different?
- I love that Simon/Peter argues with Jesus. Like straight up tells him, “It ain’t happening.” Only to eventually ask “why not all of me?!” Just makes me thankful for Jesus’ patience with us in our “it ain’t happening” moments.
- Jesus goes on to command his disciples (and by extension, us) in verses 12-17. This command is echoed by Paul in Philippians 2:3 when he says to “consider others more significant than yourself.” Jesus lovingly commands us to follow his example in being humble before those around us, especially those who do not deserve it. Our own humility is not rooted in self-confidence or self-esteem; Neither is it rooted in guilt, shame, or self-loathing. Rather it is rooted in the Gospel itself, understanding your position as a redeemed sinner before a Holy God, and realizing that we are not the protagonist in the story. I’m not the point. Pride crumbles underneath the full picture of the gospel.
“C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity makes a brilliant observation about gospel-humility at the very end of his chapter on pride. If we were to meet a truly humble person, Lewis says, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble. They would not be always telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person). The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to thoughts such as, ‘I’m in this room with these people, does that make me look good? Do I want to be here?’ True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.” – Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness
Closing verse: James 4:4-10
There are times in life where you will fall to sin. Oftentimes, we’re so blind we aren’t even aware of it. (Psalm 19:12) But there are times where the Holy Spirit, in the work of sanctification/discipling us, is gracious enough to reveal our sin to us. In these times we may feel swirling emotions and I want you to see 4 things from this text real quick.
- “But He gives more grace…” Pretty self-explanatory, God never runs out of grace for you.
- “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Grace is reserved for those who humble themselves.
- “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.” I love this verse, basically it’s godly to despair sometimes. There is nothing wicked or sinful about feeling sadness over your sins and shortcomings. If anything it’s a sign of the gospel at work in you.
- “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” The real money here. This doesn’t mean God will puff up your ego or self-worth, but rather that the gospel is true and powerful in those who recognize their need for Him so that they no longer despair over their sin, but rejoice in their salvation.
My prayer is that we would see the Father for who He is, imitate the Son in how he lived, and that these things would come under the power and influence of the Holy Spirit.