The one Apostle that was brash, presumptuous, prideful and had the proverbial calling card, “Have mouth, will put both feet in”, was Simon Peter. When he was old he wrote from a different perspective.
“Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder (older), yea, all of you be subject one to the other, and be CLOTHED WITH HUMILITY; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5-6).
Jesus had illustrated the same power principle when he called for a little child and set him in the midst of the disciples. “Be converted and become like this little child or you cannot enter into the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2-4). The disciples had been arguing among themselves as to “Who would be the greatest in the coming Kingdom” (Mark 9:33-35). Humility is not an easy virtue to come by. In spite of the repeated lessons given by the master – those that he taught, and lived and the example that he left, still no one was willing to ‘pick up the towel and wash the feet of his fellow apostles.
In the shadow of the cross, and the coming events in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus took the towel, girded himself, and kneeled and washed his own disciple’s feet. He serviced the feet of Judas who had already agreed to betray the Lord for the price of a common thief. He washed the feet of James and John, the brothers who were called “sons of thunder”. I bet they had racing stripes on their camels. Simon objected when he knelt to wash his feet but Jesus said, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me” (John 13:6) When he had finished washing feet he sat down and asked the obvious question, “Do you know what I have done to you?” Obviously, they didn’t.
The conclusion was powerful and strident, “If I, your Lord and Master have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet… If ye know these things; happy are you if ye do them” (John 13:1-17).
Jesus, the Lamb of God, graphically illustrated humility in the final assembly with his apostles. See the Son of God, the Lord of glory, Immanuel, the Prince of Peace, bowing before disciples, even Judas, to wash their feet. Washing feet is a Christian virtue, not a church ordinance.
Humility is not what you think it is. We often treat the effect as if it were the cause. Service is but the effect and may come from the heart filled with humility or one filled with humiliation. Motive makes the martyr, not the fire! Humility does not depreciate self. To increase or lessen the price does not change the actual worth of a commodity.
“I’m nothing”, “Don’t bother about me”, “I really don’t count”. “I’m used to being abused”, “I don’t have no talent” – is the vocabulary of a humanistic, modern sick society, who claims humility, but do not know the meaning of the word. This is regurgitated humility – the ‘throw up kind’. In answer to the question, “Doctor, do I have an inferiority complex?” The honest doctor replied, “No, you’re just inferior!!” True humility has no relations with self-pity. It bears no ‘regrets’ and has abandoned self in the sacrifice and service of others. It is outgoing and strong, not small and unimportant. It is the opposite of a fatalistic “I’m just a lamb for the slaughter” idea and gives to fallen man his first actual glimpse of his own self worth and importance.
William Channing (1810-1884) says it well. “To live content with small means, to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion, to be worthy, not respectable and wealthy. Not rich, to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly; to listen to the stars and birds, to babes and sages; with open heart, to bear all cheerfully, to do all with boldness and bravery, await occasions, hurry never. In a word, to let the spiritual unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony”.
Humility is not learned from books. There is no “Humility #101” in University. It is one of the most marvelous powers that God gives to man. Seek it early, pray for it daily, welcome and receive it with joy And gratitude. You cannot find it, let it find you. Jesus said, “If any man would be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross, daily and follow me”.