Jesus Set the Pattern of Humility
“I set the pattern for you, that, just as I did to you, you should do also.”—JOHN 13:15.
1, 2. During the last night of his life on earth, what object lesson did Jesus teach his apostles?
IT IS the final night of Jesus’ life on earth, and he spends it with his apostles in the upper room of a house in Jerusalem. During the course of the evening meal, Jesus gets up and puts aside his outer garments. He girds himself with a towel. Then he puts water into a basin and begins to wash the feet of the disciples and to dry them off with the towel. He then puts on his outer garments. Why did Jesus perform this humble act?—John 13:3-5.
2 Jesus himself explained: “Do you know what I have done to you? . . . If I, although Lord and Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash the feet of one another. For I set the pattern for you, that, just as I did to you, you should do also.” (John 13:12-15) By displaying a willingness to perform such a lowly task, Jesus gave his apostles an object lesson that would be deeply engraved on their minds and would encourage them to be humble in the days ahead.
3. (a) On two occasions, how did Jesus stress the importance of humility? (b) What will be discussed in this article?
3 When Jesus washed the feet of the apostles, it was not the first time he highlighted the value of humility. On an earlier occasion when some of the apostles showed a competitive spirit, Jesus set a young child beside him, and He told them: “Whoever receives this young child on the basis of my name receives me too, and whoever receives me receives him also that sent me forth. For he that conducts himself as a lesser one among all of you is the one that is great.” (Luke 9:46-48) Aware that the Pharisees sought prominence, Jesus said later in his ministry: “Everyone that exalts himself will be humbled and he that humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11) Clearly, Jesus wants his followers to be humble, that is, lowly in mind and free of pride and arrogance. With a view to imitating him, let us carefully examine his example of humility. We will also see how this quality benefits not only the one displaying it but others as well.
“I DID NOT TURN IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION”
4. How did God’s only-begotten Son exhibit humility in his prehuman existence?
4 God’s only-begotten Son showed humility even before he came to earth. In his prehuman existence, Jesus spent an untold number of years with his heavenly Father. The Bible book of Isaiah comments on the close relationship the Son had with his Father, saying: “The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself has given me the tongue of the taught ones, that I may know how to answer the tired one with a word. He awakens morning by morning; he awakens my ear to hear like the taught ones. The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself has opened my ear, and I, for my part, was not rebellious. I did not turn in the opposite direction.” (Isa. 50:4, 5) The Son of God displayed a humble attitude and paid close attention to what Jehovah taught him. He was eager and willing to learn from the true God. How closely Jesus must have observed the example of Jehovah’s humility in exercising mercy toward sinful mankind!
5. In the role of Michael the archangel, how did Jesus set an example of humility and modesty in dealing with the Devil?
5 Not every creature in heaven had the same attitude as the only-begotten Son of God. Instead of desiring to learn from Jehovah, the angel who became Satan the Devil allowed himself to be influenced by traits opposite to humility—self-importance and pride—and actually rebelled against Jehovah. On the other hand, Jesus was neither dissatisfied with his own position in heaven nor inclined to misuse his authority. As Michael the archangel, Jesus did not go beyond his authority when he had ‘a difference with the Devil about Moses’ body.’ Instead, God’s Son showed humility and modesty. He was pleased to have Jehovah, the Supreme Judge of the universe, handle matters in His own way and time.—Read Jude 9.
6. How did Jesus manifest humility in accepting the assignment to serve as the Messiah?
6 The things Jesus learned during his prehuman existence undoubtedly included the prophecies foretelling details of his life on earth as the Messiah. Hence, he likely knew in advance that unpleasant experiences awaited him. Yet, Jesus accepted the assignment to live on earth and die as the promised Messiah. Why? Highlighting the humility of God’s only-begotten Son, the apostle Paul wrote: “Although he was existing in God’s form, [he] gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men.”—Phil. 2:6, 7.
AS A HUMAN, “HE HUMBLED HIMSELF”
7, 8. In what ways did Jesus show humility during his childhood and his earthly ministry?
7 “When [Jesus] found himself in fashion as a man,” wrote Paul, “he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.” (Phil. 2:8) From his childhood on, Jesus left us a pattern of humility. Although he was raised by imperfect parents—Joseph and Mary—Jesus humbly “continued subject to them.” (Luke 2:51) What a fine example that is for young ones, who will be blessed by God for their willing subjection to their parents!
8 As an adult, Jesus showed humility by giving priority to the doing of Jehovah’s will, not his own. (John 4:34) During his ministry, Jesus Christ used God’s personal name and helped sincere people to gain an accurate knowledge of Jehovah’s attributes and His purpose for mankind. Jesus also lived in harmony with what he taught about Jehovah. In the model prayer, for example, the first point Jesus mentioned was: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.” (Matt. 6:9) Jesus thus instructed his followers to make the sanctification of Jehovah’s name a matter of prime concern. He himself lived that way. Toward the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus could say in prayer to Jehovah: “I have made your name known to them [the apostles] and will make it known.” (John 17:26) Moreover, throughout his ministry Jesus gave Jehovah the credit for what he accomplished on earth.—John 5:19.
9. What did Zechariah prophesy regarding the Messiah, and how was this fulfilled by Jesus?
9 Regarding the Messiah, Zechariah prophetically wrote: “Be very joyful, O daughter of Zion. Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem. Look! Your king himself comes to you. He is righteous, yes, saved; humble, and riding upon an ass, even upon a full-grown animal the son of a she-ass.” (Zech. 9:9) This was fulfilled when Jesus entered Jerusalem before the Passover in the year 33 C.E. The crowd spread their outer garments as well as tree branches on the road. Indeed, the whole city was set in commotion at his entry. Even when he received public acclaim as King, Jesus was humble.—Matt. 21:4-11.
10. What was proved by Jesus’ willing obedience as far as death?
10 Jesus Christ’s course of humility and obedience on earth culminated in his death on a torture stake. He thus proved beyond a doubt that humans can remain loyal to Jehovah even when tested to the extreme. Jesus also showed that Satan was wrong in claiming that humans serve Jehovah for selfish reasons. (Job 1:9-11; 2:4) Christ’s record of perfect integrity also upheld the rightfulness and righteousness of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty. Jehovah certainly rejoiced when observing the unswerving loyalty of his humble Son.—Read Proverbs 27:11.
11. The ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ opened up what prospects for believing mankind?
11 By his death on a torture stake, Jesus also paid the ransom price for mankind. (Matt. 20:28) This provided an opportunity for sinful humans to live forever, and it satisfied the demands of righteousness. “Through one act of justification the result to men of all sorts is a declaring of them righteous for life,” wrote Paul. (Rom. 5:18) Jesus’ death opened up the prospect of immortal life in heaven for spirit-anointed Christians and everlasting life on earth for the “other sheep.”—John 10:16; Rom. 8:16, 17.
I AM “LOWLY IN HEART”
12. In dealing with imperfect humans, how did Jesus show mildness and humility?
12 Jesus invited all those “toiling and loaded down” to come to him. He said: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls.” (Matt. 11:28, 29) The qualities of humility and mildness moved Jesus to be kind and impartial in dealing with imperfect humans. He was reasonable in what he expected of his disciples. Jesus commended and encouraged them. He did not make them feel incompetent or unworthy. Jesus certainly was not harsh or oppressive. On the contrary, he assured his followers that by drawing close to him and practicing his teachings, they would be refreshed, for his yoke was kindly and his load was light. People of both sexes and of all ages felt at ease in his presence.—Matt. 11:30.
13. How did Jesus show compassion for the disadvantaged?
13 In his association with the common people of Israel, Jesus had compassion for them because they were disadvantaged, and he gave loving attention to their needs. Near Jericho, he encountered a blind beggar named Bartimaeus and his unnamed blind companion. They persistently asked for Jesus’ help, but the crowd sternly urged the men to be quiet. How easy it would have been to ignore the pleas of the blind men! Instead, Jesus asked that they be brought to him, and moved with pity, he restored their sight. Yes, Jesus imitated his Father, Jehovah, by displaying humility and showing mercy to lowly sinners.—Matt. 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52.
“WHOEVER HUMBLES HIMSELF WILL BE EXALTED”
14. What benefits have resulted from Jesus’ course of humility?
14 Jesus Christ’s life course of humility is a cause of joy and is highly beneficial. Jehovah rejoiced at seeing his beloved Son humbly subject himself to the divine will. The apostles and disciples were refreshed by Jesus’ mild temper and lowliness of heart. His example, his teachings, and his warm commendation stimulated them to progress spiritually. Common people benefited from Jesus’ humility because they became recipients of his help, his teachings, and his encouragement. Actually, all redeemable mankind will reap long-term benefits from Jesus’ ransom sacrifice.
15. How did Jesus benefit from being humble?
15 What about Jesus? Did his humility benefit him? Yes, for Jesus told his disciples: “Whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12) Those words proved to be true in his own case. Paul explains: “God exalted [Jesus] to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Because of Jesus’ course of humility and faithfulness on earth, Jehovah God exalted his Son, giving him authority over creatures in heaven and on earth.—Phil. 2:9-11.
JESUS WILL “RIDE IN THE CAUSE OF TRUTH AND HUMILITY”
16. What shows that humility will continue to characterize the activities of God’s Son?
16 Humility will continue to characterize the activities of the Son of God. Foretelling how Jesus will act against His enemies from an exalted heavenly position, the psalmist sang: “In your splendor go on to success; ride in the cause of truth and humility and righteousness.” (Ps. 45:4) Along with truth and righteousness, Jesus Christ will ride in the cause of humility at Armageddon. And what will happen at the end of his Thousand Year Reign when the Messianic King “has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power”? Will he display humility? Yes, for he will ‘hand over the kingdom to his God and Father.’—Read 1 Corinthians 15:24-28.
17, 18. (a) Why is it important for Jehovah’s servants to follow Jesus’ pattern of humility? (b) What will be discussed in the next article?
17 What about us? Will we follow the pattern set by our Exemplar and manifest humility? How will we fare when the King Jesus Christ comes to execute judgment at Armageddon? The cause in which he rides dictates that he will save only those who are humble and righteous. Our developing humility, then, is essential to our survival. Moreover, just as Jesus Christ’s life course of humility brought benefits to him and others, our displaying humility will be beneficial in various ways.
18 What can help us to follow Jesus’ pattern of humility? How may we strive to be humble despite the challenges we may encounter? These questions will be considered in the next article.