The Humility of Jesus Christ
Humility is perhaps the least celebrated yet the most attractive character trait in the world. In today’s culture which celebrates arrogance and self-promotion, it’s comforting to meet someone who is genuinely humble. You know the kind of person. They don’t go on about how humble they are, which is a form of self-obsession in itself. Rather, though the room is full of people, they’re the ones taking the initiative to serve and welcome others. If pride is our greatest enemy, then true humility becomes our greatest friend.
This Easter I’ve been struck again by the true humility of Jesus. Toward the end of his life, as he entered the city of Jerusalem as its true king, he had nothing to his name. Rather than the horse and chariot of an emperor, he borrowed a donkey from a friendly supporter. Rather than the celebrity red carpet to welcome him, his followers took their cloaks and laid them on the road. Rather than trumpets and a military escort, ordinary folk waved palm branches and shouted for joy. Witnesses that day were reminded of an ancient prophesy:
Say to Daughter Zion, “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
To all he came across, from the highest to the lowest in the land, Jesus was the humble king.
What was the root of Jesus’ humility? Again and again, as we read the gospels, we hear Jesus speaking of himself as a son. Being a son, for Jesus, was important in two ways. First, as the eternal Son of God, it meant that he was completely dependent on his loving Heavenly Father. ‘The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing’. (John 5:19). He was completely confident that His Father loved him, and so was willing to be obedient toward God in all the hardships he faced. This wasn’t a temporary willingness, but a permanent lifelong conviction. Secondly, Jesus called himself the ‘son of man’, a common human being like any other – no greater, no lesser. And as the son of man, he came ‘not to be served but to serve.’ (Matthew 20:28)
Jesus knew what it meant to be truly humble, truly content in the situations in which he found himself. As the Son of God, he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but revelled in the love of his father. As a son of man, he was not conceited or proud, but counted others as more significant than himself, even giving his life for them. True humility opens our heart toward God, because we know that we need his loving help. True humility also makes us more and more able to see and meet the needs of others. As C.S. Lewis put it, humility is the freedom of self-forgetfulness. It is not thinking less of yourself; rather it is thinking of yourself less.