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, "Two!"

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."

  1. If anyone understood God's purposes, Jesus did.
    1. Listen to Jesus' statements in the same gospel of John:
      1. 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 told Me."
      2. 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."
      3. 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."
      4. 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."
    2. 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?"
      1. They accepted as fact that their expectations for God's kingdom in physical Israel were about to happen.
      2. They were certain that Jesus was physically invincible--the man could do anything!
      3. Perhaps they dreamed of their personal roles in Jesus' administration when he took physical charge of Israel.
      4. Whatever their focus, they were so far from "getting it" it must have been discouraging--and Jesus knew they did not "get it!"
    3. All that had to be on Jesus' mind as he made one last attempt to help the 12 "get it."
      1. He knew in just a matter of hours he would be betrayed by one of his closest friends.
      2. He knew in the process of the betrayal his disciples would be scattered.
      3. He knew one of his three best friends would deny him.
      4. He knew he would be crucified as he endured enormous pain.
      5. He knew he would die.
      6. He knew all of God's efforts and plans since evil invaded human life at the garden were focused on this single event.
      7. Wouldn't you have a lot on your mind if you were in those circumstances?

  2. 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 Jesus did.
    1. He did the lowest, most menial servant task that existed.
      1. He washed their dirty feet.
      2. 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 feet.
      3. It was a strikingly inappropriate act--and Simon Peter knew it!
      4. Jesus even washed the feet of the man he knew would betray him!
    2. After this shocking event was over, Jesus' put on his robes again and sat back down with them.
      1. He asked, "Do you know what I have done?"
        1. Of course they knew he had just washed their feet--they had just endured that shame and humiliation!
        2. The force of his question was this: "Do you understand the significance of what I have done?"
      2. Then he explained the significance of the act.
        1. "You honor me as your teacher and Lord, and that is appropriate."
        2. "If I could humble myself to serve you in this lowly capacity, you should humble yourselves to serve each other in lowly capacities."
        3. "This is an example (to you)--remember and follow my example."
        4. "You are not too good to follow my example--you are not more important than me."
        5. "Remember the blessing is in practicing, not in just knowing."
      3. The 12 still did not "get it" at that moment, but they "got it" in about a couple of months.

  3. As both congregations and as individuals, I am fearful that too often we still do not "get it."
    1. First, think with me for a moment from the perspective of a congregation.
      1. 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?
      2. "Is this a binding example?"
      3. "Where should foot washing fit in our theological list?"
      4. "What should we think and how should we react to congregations that have a 'foot washing ceremony'?"
    2. It is possible to have a serious discussion of John 13:1-17 in a congregation and NEVER:
      1. Discuss humility.
      2. Discuss the role of service in being God's people.
      3. If we do not discuss humility and service when studying this incident, we simply do not "get it."
      4. God's kingdom is all about humility and service, not about the technicalities of judgment.
    3. As individuals, we stress the importance of many things.
      1. We talk about God's blessings on ME.
      2. We talk about MY salvation.
      3. We talk about MY hope of heaven.
      4. We talk about MY commitment to understanding and doing what is right.
      5. We may even talk about what happens to US after WE die.
    4. Yet, it is amazing what we do not talk about.
      1. Rarely do we discuss God's purposes and objectives for the world.
      2. Rarely do we discuss the fact that God can and does work through human disappointment and suffering.
      3. Rarely do we discuss humility and service as being God's great priorities in being a godly person.

  4. If people listen to what we discussed in private moments, they might conclude that the primary objective of salvation is human desires rather than God's objectives.
    1. 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.
      1. It is not about us!
      2. It is about God!
      3. The issue is not what we think is most important to God.
      4. The issue is what God says is most important to Him.
    2. What is primary to God in Christian existence is humility and service.
      1. If we fail to understand that, we are like to 12--we just don't "get it."
      2. 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.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 06 November 2005

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