Topical Sermon on Jesus’ Humility
on the Occasion of Cherry Zhao’s Baptism
Bellevue SDA Church 5/26/2018
©2018 by Maylan Schurch
(To hear the audio for this sermon, click the triangular “play” button on the line below.)
Please open your Bibles again to Matthew chapter 23.
I think the first biography, the first life story, I ever read was actually an autobiography. It was a book which was called simply We, and it was written in 1927 by Charles Lindbergh, who earlier that year had flown his airplane solo across the Atlantic Ocean. I think I was eleven or twelve when I read it.
That book was fascinating to me, and I went through it several times. It was written in a dignified style, and Charles Lindbergh would later go on to write a number of other books. He would also go on to do a number of quite un-heroic things, which have only recently come to light. But I was thrilled to read his life story up to that point. He seemed like a very humble person.
This week as I studied the verse which Cherry has chosen for her special day, where Jesus says that people who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted, I remembered that this wasn’t the only verse where He mentioned this topic. So I looked up other verses where Jesus spoke about being humble, and I discovered that some of them also say that He Himself was humble.
So this morning I would like us to look at two of those passages, and I’d like us to pretend that each of those passages is sort of like a chapter in a book called Biography of a Humble Man.
Because that’s what Jesus definitely was – an extremely humble person. And I think that as we look at a couple of these “chapters” in His humbleness-biography, we can learn some important life lessons. Because these are lessons which He definitely wants us to learn. So let’s get started, using the verse which Cherry chose. I’ve added verse 11 to it.
Matthew 23:11 – 12 [NKJV]: But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Back when I read these verses is a farm boy in South Dakota, I knew that to be exalted means lifted up high, and to be humble means to go in the other direction. Out there on the prairies there were a number of large old houses, probably built by wealthy farmers. And sometimes, if the house was big enough and old enough, it would have a large front porch with columns, sort of like the White House, and then on top of that porch would be a balcony surrounded by a railing. And there would be a door on the second floor which led out onto that balcony. And I always wanted to go upstairs in houses like that, and out through that door, and stand grandly on that balcony, as though I were a king or maybe a president, and look down on everything and pretend that I owned it and controlled it.
And in my mind, that was probably the closest thing I can think of to being exalted.
Anyway, in these verses Jesus has made His point, the one Cherry has found so powerful. If you try to exalt yourself, you will be humbled. But if you are humble, you will be exalted.
In fact let’s lay down Sermon Point One before we go any further. If there were really a book about Jesus called Biography of a Humble Man, this first sermon point could go probably go on the back cover. Because the back cover is where you often find a summary of what the book is about. So here comes Sermon Point One.
If you allow yourself to become humble like Jesus, He will choose the right status for you.
Usually when I’m studying familiar Bible passages to prepare a sermon on them, I most often get at least one “surprise” as I study, something fresh about a passage which I hadn’t seen before. Let me tell you about my surprise takeaway from my study this week.
Always before, when I read these verses, I assumed that being humbled and being exalted were basically the same thing to everybody involved. However, here was the surprise I found.
Let’s say you have a proud person and a humble person standing side-by-side. If somebody comes along and humbles the proud person, that proud person is not going to like it. Because he has no desire to be humble. Humility to him is distasteful.
To the humble person, however, humility is just fine. He likes being humble. He seeks it out, and lives that way. But if somebody came along and tried to exalt him in the same way that the proud person would like to be exalted, the humble person would probably shy away from that kind of exaltation, because that doesn’t fit with his personality.
Why is this? It’s because the proud person says to himself, “I want more and more people to see me, to pay attention to me, to treat me like a celebrity, and ideally, to do whatever I tell them to do.”
But the humble person simply says, “All I want is to be placed where I can be most useful to God’s plan.”
Recently I was talking to someone I was just getting acquainted with, and I asked him a question which I have often asked people down through the years, especially young people. I asked, “What do you see yourself doing in five years?”
And even as I said it, I realized that, for a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, that’s really kind of a silly question. Sure, it’s a good thing to make plans, and get an education, and move into a career and so on, but I realized that, since these are the last days, we can’t fully let our weight down. We can’t assume that we can look steadily forward into a long life of security. We just don’t know what might happen.
And the person I was talking to understood exactly the same thing. He said to me, “What I do is to ask the Lord to perform His will in my life, to take me where He wants me.” And I was very impressed with that answer. There has to be a balance between planning and yet being light on your feet, ready to go where the Lord wants you.
Now let’s page through Biography of a Humble Man to another chapter. Let’s go to Philippians chapter 2.
When you’re reading through a biography, the first piece of writing you come to is generally a chapter where the author speaks to the reader about the person who is the subject of the biography, maybe positioning that famous person in a history timeline, or giving a summary of why that person is so important.
I think some of the verses in Philippians 2 tell us specifically who Jesus is, and what happened to Him as He came to this earth and became a human being.
Philippians 2:5 – 11: Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So here is the perfect example of someone who humbled Himself, very dramatically, and whom God has exalted, very dramatically.
So what’s another life lesson we can learn from this Biography of a Humble Man?
First, if you allow yourself to become humble like Jesus, He will choose the right status for you. Second, if you let yourself be humble like Him, your mind will become more like His mind.
Did you catch what Paul said at the very beginning of these verses? He challenges us, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Paul does not say, “Content yourself with simply admiring Jesus as a wonderfully humble human being.” No, Paul is saying, “Let His mind your mind. Allow His qualities to become your qualities. Allow the Holy Spirit to help you think more and more the way Jesus thinks.”
Paul has just told us how Jesus humbled Himself four times – from God to human being, from human being to servant, from servant to death, and from death to the death of a criminal. Jesus did not come as a king to take the place of Herod. He did not come as a ruler to take the place of Pilate. He did not come as a priest to take the place of Ananias or Caiaphas.
No, Jesus humbled Himself all the way down to a servant who was tried and convicted in a court of law, and had to pay the ultimate penalty.
And then, Paul says here, God exalted Jesus. Now, Jesus is so exalted that eventually every knee will bow to Him.
And to me, this is truly thrilling. If Jesus has become King, this makes me feel really good. Because I know that Jesus knows what I’m going through. He has been a human being. He grew up in a town which was viewed with contempt by people who didn’t live there. He was not independently wealthy. He had to make a living too, working as a carpenter. He was not independently wealthy.
While I was going to college, I worked the 11-to-7 night shift fulltime, six nights a week, as a dorm parent at a state institution for the developmentally disabled near my hometown of Redfield, South Dakota. During the daytime I carpooled to college 40 miles away and tried to stay awake during class.
As you can imagine, those work nights got really long. We dorm parents knew we had to stay awake because the night supervisor walked from dorm to dorm, and you never knew when he would show up on your ward.
And I can remember how delighted all of us night dorm parents were when a man named Mortimer was promoted to night supervisor. I never did know his first name, and I don’t think many other people did either. Everybody just called him Mortimer.
Mortimer was a really gracious guy. While he was still a dorm parent, I always enjoyed working with him, because he was so pleasant, so soft-spoken. When you work nights and are trying to stay awake, you do not need a high-energy person who’s had eight solid hours of sleep yammering in your ear all night long.
And not only was he a nice guy, but Mortimer knew exactly what we night folks were going through. He had been a night dorm parent for years. He knew how sleepy you got there in the darkened dorm with nothing going on. He knew how it felt to have to go to the water fountain and splash water up into your face to try to bring alertness back into your system.
So we joyfully welcomed the nights that our new night supervisor was scheduled. Mortimer would gently enter our dorms, making sure to courteously rattle his keys to alert us to his presence. One night I was especially tired, and while I was talking to Mortimer I actually dropped off to sleep for a couple minutes, and he patiently waited until I “came to” again. He knew what I was going through.
Don’t you think that’s what Jesus is like? Everybody who heard Jesus speak, or felt His healing touch, loved Him deeply, because they sensed He could understand. The only people who didn’t love Him were the proud who refused to let themselves be humbled by the master of humility.
So how do I put this to work this coming week, this idea that my mind can gradually become more and more like Jesus’ mind?
Well, one thing I need to remember is that, when you come to think of it, I am royalty. You are royalty. God created you and me, and God is the King of the universe, Therefore we are His children, and therefore we are princes and princesses. We are extremely valuable to God, not only because He created us, but because He allowed His Son Jesus to ride forth and rescue us when we couldn’t rescue ourselves.
And since Jesus is royalty, but was quick to humble Himself as deeply as possible in order to fulfill His Father’s mission, you and I must be quick to humble ourselves in the same way. That’s what Paul is talking about when he says that we should let Jesus’ mind, Jesus’ way of thinking, happen inside our heads. Jesus humbled Himself, so we should humble ourselves, to do whatever God needs done.
So don’t worry about your status. If you allow yourself to become humble like Jesus, He will choose the right status for you. And, if you let yourself be humble like Him, your mind will become more like His.
This all happens through the gentle action of the Holy Spirit, removing any narrow, pinched selfishness from our hearts and widening our view, so that we will think beyond ourselves and yearn to help other people get to know our humble King, and to help them understand what we are learning too—that any other way of thinking or acting besides Jesus’ way is nothing but sinking sand. Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
That’s Cherry’s closing song, and let’s use it as a way of telling our Savior that we love Him and that we want His humility to be part of us.