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Guest Column

August 2004 | by Robert Strivens

How often do you give time to meditate on the character of Jesus Christ? Have you recently considered the humility of Jesus Christ?

The Gospels show that Christ’s entire life was one of humility. We see the humble – and humiliating – surroundings in which he is born. With Mary heavily pregnant, she and Joseph must travel far from home and, finding no room in the local inn, have to lay the newborn child in an animals’ feeding-trough, of all places.

The Lord’s life continues as it began. He has nowhere to lay his head – no place to call his own. Financially dependent on others, his possessions at the end of his life amount to no more than the clothes he was wearing.

Lonely life

We see him eating and drinking with sinful men and women, the outcasts of society, though he is himself without sin of any kind. Gladly he welcomes the maimed and diseased, not shrinking from their touch. With compassion, he feeds the hungry and weeps over the lost.

One evening, he takes a towel and washes his disciples’ hot, dirty, smelly feet – performing this most menial of tasks to demonstrate that he came to serve, not to be served.

His is a lonely life. Powerful enemies want him dead. The crowds love his miracles (especially where free food is on offer) but could not care less about his teaching.

Even his own disciples seem incapable of grasping the true nature of his mission and, in the end, desert him. His final hours are spent in agony and shame, hanging on a Roman cross. Even his tomb is borrowed.

His by right

Yet when we have considered all this, we have not begun to penetrate the depths of the Saviour’s humility. Only when we appreciate where he comes from and who he is, do we begin to see what his humility really means. We have to go back into eternity past and up into the highest heaven.

There we see our Saviour dwelling for ever in the glory that is his by right – the glory of the uncreated God. He is worshipped continually by an innumerable host of angels. He shines with a light of unbearable purity and intensity. He enjoys all the rights and glory of the Godhead.

Recently, we were able to watch the planet Venus pass across the Sun. We look up into heaven on a cloudless evening and see countless stars. We admire the beauty of a rose, the grandeur of a mountain, the power of the ocean.

Do we give thanks to God, who created all these things in and through Christ? For ‘all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made’. And by what power does this universe continue in existence? From where comes the life and breath of every living thing? From Christ – ‘in him all things hold together’.

Morality

Where do our ideas of right and wrong come from? On what basis do we say that murder and adultery, hate and lust, are wrong and evil – and that love, truth and kindness are right and good? It is on the basis of Christ – he is the foundation of all morality and law, of all that is right and good.

For what purpose do we exist? Why is this world here at all? To bring honour and glory to Christ. ‘He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation … He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent’.

We must understand that the baby born in Bethlehem is this same Christ who inhabits eternity, this all-glorious Son of God. In the words of the apostle, ‘he made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men’.

Here is humility! The Lord of all takes a human form and a human nature. The Creator of all things comes to live amongst his creatures, as one of us. It is from this perspective that we must view the humility of his birth, his life, his death.

Stand amazed

If we see Jesus simply as a very humble human, we do not yet understand his humility. It is the fact that this one who came to serve sinners is himself God that helps us grasp something of the true nature of his humility.

Stand amazed, ye heavens, at this!
See the Lord of earth and skies;
Humbled to the dust He is,
And in a manger lies.

And still we have not plumbed the depths of it. For, as Paul reminds us, Christ ‘humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross’. This one, who is God, died! The Creator of all dies at the hands of his own creatures! How can this be?

Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut his glories in,
When God, the mighty Maker, died
For man, the creature’s sin.

Imitation

Here is true humility! To come from the glory of heaven, to share in the wretchedness of earth, to die upon a cruel cross – this is what it meant for the Son of God to humble himself.

But we cannot stop there. Do we claim to be disciples of Christ? Then we are called, not only to meditate on the humility of our Saviour, but to imitate it. ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus’.

Can we who claim to follow Christ insist on our own ‘rights’ when he gave up his? Can we demand that others serve us, when he came not to be served but to serve? Can we refuse to give our all for others, when Christ gave his all for us?

‘Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on … humility’ (Colossians 3:12).

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