The Humility and Servanthood of Jesus
I spoke for Jzone Mandaluyong (formerly Jzone Pinoy) youth group last Friday on the topic of humility and servanthood of Jesus. The main passage is Mark 10:35-45.
This is a topic so dear to my heart. I’ve been battling pride for the longest time. I have to be reminded of humility and servanthood from time to time. And I’m privileged to be teaching these topics.
The Problem of Pride
Now, let’s first find out what the Bible says about pride. Here are some verses.
Pride is hated by the wise:
13The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. (Proverbs 8:13, emphasis added)
Pride leads to disgrace:
2When pride comes, then comes disgrace… (Proverbs 11:2, emphasis added)
Pride leads to destruction and fall:
18Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18, emphasis added)
Pride is sin:
4Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin. (Proverbs 21:4, emphasis added)
Pride brings one low:
23One’s pride will bring him low… (Proverbs 29:23, emphasis added)
Pride is evil and defiles a person:
21For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person. (Mark 7:21-23, emphasis added)
Pride is of the world:
16For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. (1 John 2:16, emphasis added).
Pride is opposed by God:
6…”God opposes the proud… (James 4:6, emphasis added)
The Beauty of Humility
Now that we have seen what the Bible says about pride, let’s find out what the Bible teaches about humility. Here are some verses.
God leads and teaches the humble:
9He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. (Psalm 25:9, emphases added)
God lifts up the humble:
6The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground. (Psalm 147:6, emphasis added)
God gives favor to the humble:
34Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor. (Proverbs 3:34, emphasis added)
Humility brings honor:
12Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 18:12, emphasis added)
Humility is rewarded with riches, honor, and life:
4The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life. (Proverbs 22:4, emphasis added)
The humble will be exalted:
12Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12, emphasis added)
We are called to put on humility:
12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. (Colossians 3:12, emphasis added)
5Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5, emphasis added)
God gives grace to the humble:
6…”God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, emphasis added)
We now know what the Bible says about pride and humility. Remember this: Pride is overcome with humility; humility is greatly cultivated in servanthood. In the next portion, we shall learn about servanthood.
The Request of James and John
Now let’s turn to our main passage, Mark 10:35-45. And let’s determine how pride manifested through James and John.
35And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
James and John were disciples of Jesus. Along with Peter, they belong to the inner three that were closest to Jesus.
The disciples, including the brothers, had a wrong conception of the Messianic kingdom. They thought that it will be an earthly and political kingdom that will free them from Rome’s oppression. That’s why the brothers, who probably used their proximity with their Master, wanted to be seated beside Jesus. They were proud. They were self-promoting.
38Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?
Jesus here was referring to suffering. Obviously, the brothers didn’t know what they’re asking. (But this is a prophetic statement from Jesus, for James died as a martyr [Acts 12:2] and John was forced to live in exile [Revelation 1:9]).
39And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
And when the brothers said they were able, they sounded like Peter. When Jesus told his disciples that they will fall away on his account (Matthew 26:31), Peter boasted, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away” (v.33). And when Jesus prophesied that he will deny Him three times, he again boasted, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” (v.35). He was over-confident. Likewise, the brothers were.
41And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.
The other ten disciples were offended by the request of the brothers. Why? It’s because the two were proud—self-promoting and over-confident. But this is what I think. The ten were offended because they themselves wanted to be seated beside Jesus as well. The pride of the two led to division and competition.
Before we move on, let’s sum up how pride manifested in the brothers. First, it manifested through self-promotion. Second, over-confidence. And lastly, division and competition. Are these manifested in your life?
The Call to Servanthood
42And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.
When Jesus saw the commotion among the disciples, Jesus rebuked them gently and began to teach that they must not be like the Gentiles. Gentile leaders wanted to be served by others.
43But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.
But that is not the case for the disciples. They must be servants. The word servant (diakonos) means waiter, someone who serves food and drinks. Waiters in restaurants always serve the customers. The customer’s wish is the waiter’s command. Likewise, we must also be waiters, or servants, who aren’t served by everybody but serves everybody.
And we must not only be servants; we must be slaves as well. Slaves (doulos) are devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests. They are owned and totally controlled by their masters. With this in mind, we should consider everybody our masters and serve them.
Are you a servant to the people around you?
The Example of Jesus
But how can we become servants and slaves to the people around us? It is by humility. One cannot serve others unless he humbles himself. And the best example of humility and servanthood is Jesus himself. Philippians 2:3-7 says:
3Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
In humility, Jesus counted others more significant than Himself. In humility, Jesus looked unto the interests of others. In humility, Jesus did not count equality with God. In humility, Jesus made Himself nothing, became a servant, and took on humanity. And why all this humility? So that He can serve others!
45For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus set the ultimate example of humility and servanthood. If He, the Son of God, came to serve rather than be served by others, and came to give his life to others, then we must do the same.
Again, remember this: Pride is overcome with humility; humility is greatly cultivated in servanthood.
A Personal Story
Before I end, let me recount a story of how pride manifested in my life. I never get tire telling this story again and again, as it reminds me to be humble and to serve others.
When I was in my fourth year of college, I had a subject which required me to be a part of a project team. We were 5 in the group, and I was the leader. Being the leader of the group, I tend to be pushy and over-directive. I wanted to, unfortunately and unconsciously, boss around. I’m the leader, right?
A few days before a submission of a project, I was surprised that three of my groupmates weren’t a part of my group anymore. Without my knowledge the three had talked to our professor about leaving the group, and the professor consented. So when I asked one of them why they left the group, she simply answered me, “You’re bossy!” I was shocked! Humbled, I asked for their forgiveness.
My pride caused me trouble. Instead of serving them, I wanted them to serve me. I learned my lesson.
It’s my prayer that you don’t commit the same mistake.
Are you struggling with pride in your life? How can you increase humility then?
When was the last time you served others? If it’s a long time ago, is it because, unconsciously, you wanted to be served by other? (Take a time to reflect).
What are concrete steps can you take to practice servanthood?