It's Time To Be Humble, Part 3
It is extremely difficult to try to teach or provide insights
to individuals who "just do not get it." When I was supposed to be learning
fractions, I simply did not "get" the concept. My failure to grasp the concept
of fractions was about to be a serious problem in school. So my tireless, very
capable Mom took on the task my teacher could not solve. My Mom decided she
would teach me fractions.
She tried and tried, without success, to show me the concept. Finally in what
she thought was a way to "get" through to me, she said, "David, if five birds
light on the fence, and three of them fly away, what is left?" I proudly said,
She immediately asked me, "Two what?'
Filled with the confidence of successful subtraction, I replied, "Two birds!"
At that pointed she almost decided it was a hopeless task, but she persisted,
and I finally "got it."
Much of the life of a church leader (in any capacity) is devoted to helping
people "get it." Conversion is primarily about leading individuals to an
understanding that allows them to "get it." Loving God with all your being is
about "getting it." Loving your neighbor as yourself is about "getting it."
Spiritually maturing is primarily about "getting it." Being good husbands to our
wives, good wives to our husbands, good parents to our children, and good
children to our parents is primarily about "getting it."
Teaching others how to "get it" is a scary undertaking. (a) It means you
correctly "get it" so you are qualified to help someone else "get it." (b) It
means it is correct for someone else to trust you to help them "get it," and if
that means his or her turning life around, that is truly okay. I find that
responsibility a scary thought. It is even scarier when I invoke God to
underscore that I correctly "get it."
"Getting it" is a very responsible undertaking. It is a lifetime pursuit, a
commitment. It requires admitting I am wrong when I am wrong. It requires being
responsible when I am responsible. It requires redirecting when I need to
redirect. Those are heavy challenges.
This evening I want to call your attention to a scripture most of you know
well. I want you to pay close attention to who does not "get it" and the
enormous effort made to help these people "get it."
Read with me John 13:1-17. Now before the
Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart
out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He
loved them to the end. During supper, the devil having already put into the
heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that
the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from
God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments;
and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and
began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He
was girded. So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, "Lord, do You wash my
feet?" Jesus answered and said to him, "What I do you do
not realize now, but you will understand hereafter." Peter said to Him,
"Never shall You wash my feet!" Jesus answered him, "If I
do not wash you, you have no part with Me." Simon Peter said to Him,
"Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head." Jesus said to
him, "He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but
is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you." For He knew
the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said,
"Not all of you are clean." So when He had washed their feet, and taken
His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them,
"Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher
and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher,
washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an
example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a
slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the
one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them."
- If anyone understood God's purposes, Jesus did.
- Listen to Jesus' statements in the same gospel of John:
- John 12:49,50 "For I did not speak on My own
initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment
as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is
eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has
- John 8:28 So Jesus said,
"When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know
that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these
things as the Father taught Me."
- John 5:19 Therefore Jesus answered and was
saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you,
the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the
Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does
in like manner."
- John 14:10 "Do you not believe that I am in the
Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not
speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works."
- Can you imagine how frustrating it was for Jesus to spend his last night
on earth as a physical man and know his 12 closest friends did not "get it?"
- They accepted as fact that their expectations for God's kingdom in
physical Israel were about to happen.
- They were certain that Jesus was physically invincible--the man could
- Perhaps they dreamed of their personal roles in Jesus' administration
when he took physical charge of Israel.
- Whatever their focus, they were so far from "getting it" it must have
been discouraging--and Jesus knew they did not "get it!"
- All that had to be on Jesus' mind as he made one last attempt to help
the 12 "get it."
- He knew in just a matter of hours he would be betrayed by one of his
- He knew in the process of the betrayal his disciples would be
- He knew one of his three best friends would deny him.
- He knew he would be crucified as he endured enormous pain.
- He knew he would die.
- He knew all of God's efforts and plans since evil invaded human life
at the garden were focused on this single event.
- Wouldn't you have a lot on your mind if you were in those
- To try to help his 12 disciples "get it" (one more time), he did something
so unexpected, so dramatic that I guarantee you those 12 men never forgot what
- He did the lowest, most menial servant task that existed.
- He washed their dirty feet.
- He took his robes off, took a towel and put the towel around his
waist, he poured water in a basin, and he washed and dried these 12 men's
- It was a strikingly inappropriate act--and Simon Peter knew it!
- Jesus even washed the feet of the man he knew would betray him!
- After this shocking event was over, Jesus' put on his robes again and
sat back down with them.
- He asked, "Do you know what I have done?"
- Of course they knew he had just washed their feet--they had just
endured that shame and humiliation!
- The force of his question was this: "Do you understand the
significance of what I have done?"
- Then he explained the significance of the act.
- "You honor me as your teacher and Lord, and that is appropriate."
- "If I could humble myself to serve you in this lowly capacity, you
should humble yourselves to serve each other in lowly capacities."
- "This is an example (to you)--remember and follow my example."
- "You are not too good to follow my example--you are not more
important than me."
- "Remember the blessing is in practicing, not in just knowing."
- The 12 still did not "get it" at that moment, but they "got it" in
about a couple of months.
- As both congregations and as individuals, I am fearful that too often we
still do not "get it."
- First, think with me for a moment from the perspective of a
- When we give serious thought to John 13:1-17 and the "foot washing"
incident, what are we most likely to discuss as a congregation?
- "Is this a binding example?"
- "Where should foot washing fit in our theological list?"
- "What should we think and how should we react to congregations that
have a 'foot washing ceremony'?"
- It is possible to have a serious discussion of John 13:1-17 in a
congregation and NEVER:
- Discuss humility.
- Discuss the role of service in being God's people.
- If we do not discuss humility and service when studying this incident,
we simply do not "get it."
- God's kingdom is all about humility and service, not about the
technicalities of judgment.
- As individuals, we stress the importance of many things.
- We talk about God's blessings on ME.
- We talk about MY salvation.
- We talk about MY hope of heaven.
- We talk about MY commitment to understanding and doing what is right.
- We may even talk about what happens to US after WE die.
- Yet, it is amazing what we do not talk about.
- Rarely do we discuss God's purposes and objectives for the world.
- Rarely do we discuss the fact that God can and does work through human
disappointment and suffering.
- Rarely do we discuss humility and service as being God's great
priorities in being a godly person.
- If people listen to what we discussed in private moments, they might
conclude that the primary objective of salvation is human desires rather than
- Too often we fail to see that what God has done and continues to do is
focused on Who He is and not on what we want.
- It is not about us!
- It is about God!
- The issue is not what we think is most important to God.
- The issue is what God says is most important to Him.
- What is primary to God in Christian existence is humility and service.
- If we fail to understand that, we are like to 12--we just don't "get
- Just look at how many people think they are good, godly people, but
rarely give any consideration to humility or service.
When we "get it," it will affect the way we behave and the way we treat other
people. And "getting it" will be very obvious in our own homes.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 06 November 2005
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