Humility is the bedrock of humanity!

Pastor Jeff Struecker

I like to watch award shows, but I cannot stand listening to the acceptance speeches. Every time I watch the Super Bowl, Grammys, and the Oscars, it seems like every person who receives the award stands up on stage and essentially tells the world how awesome they are. And I think to myself. You don’t have to tell everybody how awesome you are. You just received the pinnacle of success in your industry, and then I think I can’t sit here and stomach this much longer because they always feel like they are ‘perfect.’

I was having lunch with somebody last week, talking about pride and humility. I told them, “There’s only one speech that I’ve been able to watch that sounded like that’s exactly what people should be saying at the Grammys. It came from my favorite hip-hop artist, a Christian named Crane.” This isn’t like Crane’s first Grammy, but he received a Grammy for the best Gospel music in 2015. And when he received that Grammy, he said something as he was standing up there accepting the award that’s frankly true of everybody in the room and everybody who goes across the stage and walks away with the ultimate success.

It’s true that the gift to sing great vocals or the ability to act, or some spectacular athletic abilities ultimately come from the gift giver. Sure, you should thank your family, and of course, you should talk about the people that helped get you where you are. Still, the one who deserves credit is the gift giver for the gifts you and I have received today. We’re going to talk about humility, and humility is becoming extinct. It used to be endangered in the United States, but it’s becoming extinct in the United States.

When you strip everything else away and go to the very basis of humanity, humility makes us right before God and makes us able to relate with other people. Humility is the bedrock of humanity.

All of us struggled with pride from time to time. We all want everybody to look at us and tell us how awesome we are. Today, what you see is the single greatest human being to ever step foot on planet earth does something scandalous, and he takes on the role of the lowliest slave in the community. It shocked his disciples so much that they were almost offended by what just happened when Jesus took off their dirty sandals and he washed the feet of his disciples.

Humility is the bedrock of humanity!

Today, Jesus is going to explain to his disciples why he just did what he did because it’s shocking, and, he’s going to put it right in our lap and tell us what we’re supposed to do about what just happened. So I will give you three strategies if you struggle with pride.

Be the first to serve

The genuinely humble guy or gal in the room doesn’t look for other people to serve them first. They first look to serve others, and after they serve others, they take their proper place in the room. Well, that’s exactly what Jesus did. He’s the first to serve his disciples when he washed their feet, and now he’s going to explain why he just did what he did.  

Starting in verse 12 of John chapter 13, When Jesus had washed their feet and put on his outer clothing, which means he had to strip all the way down to his skivvies, he reclined again and said to them, reclined again means he took back up his seat at the head of the table after doing something so lowly, so scandalous that it shocked his disciples and then he said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are speaking rightly, since that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done for you. “Truly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

He’s expecting his people to do what we read in the Bible. Jesus gets up from the head of the table, strips down, and takes on the role of the most humble person in the room. He does the thing you wouldn’t even ask a Jewish house servant to do. This is something for a slave, yet Jesus washed their feet. 

John 13: 12-17

When Jesus had washed their feet and put on his outer clothing, he reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are speaking rightly, since that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done for you. “Truly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

And after doing that, he puts back on his cloak and goes back to the head of the table and says, you know what you guys call me master, that’s what the word Lord means. You call me Lord, and you call me teacher, I’m the teacher, you’re the student, and Jesus says, and you’re right, I am the teacher, I am the master, but I’ve just given you an example.  

Some churches have got this word wrong, they kind of thought that what Jesus was saying is, hey, the example that I gave you. I want you to do the same thing. Literally, in some churches and some denominations, they practice the physical practice of foot washing. 

They’ve missed the critical point here; what Jesus is doing is he is serving others by washing their feet. The idea of washing feet that makes us look good in front of the people we’re serving undermines the real example that Jesus gave when you see the word example in John Chapter 13. I want you to think.

Ladies, think about it as a recipe. I put the ingredients together, following the recipe, I cook it at the right temperature for the right time, and out of the oven comes the desired dish. Guys, think about it as a Youtube video on how to fix a leaky pipe. I followed the video, and the pipe doesn’t leak anymore. Jesus is giving a pattern here, not an exact example for us to take off our shoes and wash each other’s feet. 

He’s challenging us to serve each other and get this, pride can even creep into the church. Pride can even make its way into the church in religious rituals and the very denominations or churches that teach foot washing, not all but some of them, if they’re not careful, this foot-washing ceremony, they take pride in it. They start to feel big about themselves for following the pattern that Jesus just said. Even doing something good that’s supposed to make us humble and following the most remarkable example of humility can make our hearts proud. We start to act like we’re a pretty big deal because of the religious ritual that we just did, and that is why I can’t stomach award shows at its essence. 

All pride is a lie. It’s ultimately taking credit for something you don’t deserve in all its glory. Yeah, you did something great, and sure, people want to pat you on the back. But the ability to do something great comes from somebody who gave you the skills in the first place. You didn’t do anything to earn that talent for those of you who have physical abilities or intellect or have some talent. Yeah, maybe you worked on it and developed it, but you didn’t do anything to earn it. So ultimately, God deserves the credit for that. 

The challenge for us is to serve others. And then when we start to get a little bit of credit for it, instead of giving the glory to God. You see it’s a challenge because our human nature makes us want to be served, not served.


Be ready to sacrifice for others

It gets even harder because the word sacrifice means you serve to the point that it hurts. There would be no such thing as a sacrifice if it didn’t cost you a little bit and if it didn’t hurt a little bit along the way. The idea of sacrifice here is to serve somebody else to the point that it hurts a little bit, and you don’t get a lot in return. You might not get anything out of it in return. 

We’re going to hear from Jesus about a sacrifice he makes to somebody who turned their back on him and stabbed him in the back.

By the way, the Bible scholars and theologians had spent 2000 years trying to figure out what was going through Judas’ mind when Jesus was washing his feet because, at this point in the last supper, nobody in the room knew what was about to happen except for Jesus. 

And when Jesus takes off his cloak, he starts to serve everybody by washing their feet. I hope it occurred to you. One of the feet that he washed was Judas’ feet, who would put on his sandals, go outside of the room, and sell Jesus out for 20 pieces of silver in just a few moments. Jesus knows about this ahead of time, and he’s going to explain to his disciples that he knows about it ahead of time because he doesn’t want them to lose heart or lose faith in him. So, let’s pick the story back up. 

In verse 18, Jesus is talking about serving others and doing good for others. Then he says, “I’m not speaking about all of you; this is a reference specifically to Judas Iscariot, who’s about to betray him. I know those I have chosen. But the Scripture must be fulfilled: The one who eats my bread has raised his heel against me. I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am he.

John 13: 18-19

“I’m not speaking about all of you; I know those I have chosen. But the Scripture must be fulfilled: The one who eats my bread has raised his heel against me. I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am he.

He is saying, I’m telling you now before this happens so that when it happens, you won’t think that I didn’t know what was coming. You won’t think that I wasn’t in control and could stop what’s happening. I’m fully aware of what will happen, and I need you to know after the fact that I’m fully aware of it before it even goes down. 

The Bible scholars have wondered what went into Judas’ mind. Was he trying to push Jesus to become king? 

Jesus, the crowds, want you to become king, and you’re not doing what the crowds want. The Pharisees challenge your authority, and you’re not ruling over them. And even us, your disciples, want you to stand up and take over and ride into Jerusalem on the white horse. You’re not doing what we want you to do, Jesus. 

Some Bible scholars believe Judas will help Jesus out a little bit by pushing him. Making him confront the Pharisees and stand up to take his rightful place in Jerusalem as the ruler of the universe. The problem is that Judas will go to the Pharisees looking for an opportunity to get rich. In fact, John even tells us we thought it was all about the money because he’s always all about the money. He’s the guy who holds onto the money. He’s consumed with money, and Judas deliberately goes to them; they don’t go to Judas looking for an opportunity to sell out his master, the one who has just washed his feet and treated him like he was his servant. I’m not even sure if Judas knows what’s about to happen, but sometime during that meal, Satan enters Judas’ heart. Judas leaves the room, and Jesus tells Judas, go ahead and do what you must do. 

Jesus is telling his disciples ahead of time. It was actually all recorded in Scripture, and it had to happen for the scriptures to be fulfilled. I don’t want you to lose hope or faith in me when that joker sells me out, gets arrested, then condemned, and ultimately dies. Because they might be sitting there thinking to themselves, Jesus, did you really know that this was going to happen? Jesus, did you really have enough power to stop this, or is your power limited? 

Judas’ heart gets twisted, and he decides that he’s going to make some money off of following Jesus. As a result, Judas goes out, and he sells out the King of Kings for 20 pieces of silver. 

One of the great protestant reformers, a guy named jJohnCalvin once talked about our hearts and how easy our hearts are to be tempted and to become twisted. John Calvin said in one of his most influential books, the institutes of the Christian religion, that our hearts are perpetual idol factories that we could take our hearts and our heart will turn us into an idol, then we start to violate the ten commandments. 

Now, when I started to talk about pride today, I’m not talking about the seven deadly sins. I’m talking about the ten commandments, and I’m actually talking about number one on the list because number one is not to put anyone or anything in the place of God. And what John Calvin says is, look, when I look in my own heart, when I see other people’s hearts. I see that I can quickly put myself in place of God, and I become the idol. God becomes my servant instead of Him becoming Lord and me becoming the servant. Jesus is the one who is willing to lay it all aside and ready to serve even to the point that it hurts when the Bible describes Jesus as servant service. The ultimate description comes from Philippians chapter two that he was willing to lay aside his Godly abilities, his Godhead, and he was willing to take on flesh and humble himself is the language. 

The Bible uses humble himself to the point of death and willing to go to the cross so that you and I could be made right with God. Nobody goes and serves others for very pure, very noble motives. Unless something deep in your heart motivates you to do that, just serving other people. It’s tough to do unless you’re looking for something in return.  

But what makes it almost impossible is when you serve somebody else, to the point that it hurts you a little bit and you get nothing out of it in return; that is God-like service. 

All other forms of serving others are a transaction. I’m going to do this for you if you’ll do this for me. In God’s case, He reached down into humanity, and He was willing to give up the ultimate sacrifice so that you and I could be made right. We can offer Him nothing in return for what He’s given to us. The God-like service is when you sacrifice for somebody else. 

If you’re saying Jeff, I want to be able to do that, but I struggle with this because I also want other people to notice me, applaud me, and tell me how awesome I am. So how do I serve even to the point of sacrificing and not expect something else in return? And I’ll tell you; this is where the rubber meets the road.

Remember who sent you

You have to remember who sent you. Jesus will end this passage today with an explanation of who he is, where he comes from, and in the process, he’s going to describe who we are and where we are supposed to send all of the glory. 

John 13:20, Truly I tell you, whoever receives anyone I send receives me, and the one who receives me receives him who sent me.” Jesus reminds us that people may want to pat you on the back. They may want to give you lots of credit and lots of applause for the good things that you do. When that happens, why don’t you point the attention to the one who sent you, who gives you the God-given abilities or gifts in the first place?

He’s taking his relationship to the Father, explaining it in terms of our relationship with him. He’s saying if you’re going to be my disciples, you live towards me, just as I lived towards the Father. I said what the Father told me to say, and I did what the Father told me to do because He sent me. 

Now, if you’ve been following in the book of John at this point, the crowds have tried to push Jesus to do what they want him to do. Hey Jesus, you gave us bread. Now we’re ready to follow you, you go kick out the Roman government, and you become our king, and when the crowds are ready to push Jesus, he refuses to do what they say. 

John 13: 20

Truly I tell you, whoever receives anyone I send receives me, and the one who receives me receives him who sent me.”

The Pharisees are pushing Jesus. Hey, if you are that awesome, why don’t you prove it to us by doing some signs and some miracles. Read the other gospels in the new testament, and Jesus will tell them it’s a wicked generation that asks for me to do a magic trick to prove myself to you. 

I’m telling you this because I can make life simpler for you this week. It may not be easy, but I can make life a lot simpler for you this week; when you start to face some challenges and are pulled in two different directions, just follow the one who sent you and give him glory this week. 

When you have some dilemmas in front of you, and you’re not sure what to do at work, in your marriage, at home, whatever it is, when you’re facing those difficulties, choose the option that is going to bring glory to God instead of getting credit to you. Then allow God to take the credit for what happens next, and in doing so, you will be fulfilling exactly what Jesus said, the first shall become, and the last shall become first.