And 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.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus 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?” And 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, but 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 ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And 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. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus is God, but he became a servant. He is the righteous judge, but gave himself up to the verdict of wicked men. This is the humility of our Lord: He had nothing to gain; yet he gave up all he had.
Everyone esteems the virtue of humility, but to step into the reality of our lives is to remember how contrary it is to our thinking. In so many ways we are accustomed to building ourselves up – proving our worth, impressing people, vying to be noticed and honored. Ironically, we even hope to be recognized for our humility. If you think giving up TV or coffee for Lent is hard, give up trying to get attention for a day. You will realize how pervasive our desire is to be lifted up.
In the Old Testament, exchanging clothing for sackcloth was the outward symbol of making oneself low. It was trading in an outward expression of one’s position in society and putting on the lowest position. To be made low in our day, we must know what it means to say, “Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). Roy Hession offers these penetrating words: “First of all, our proud self must be broken. Our own self must give up its rights. Our self is hard. It does not want to obey God. It likes to show that it is right. It wants to go its own way. It wants to claim all its rights. It always seeks glory for itself. The self must bow to God’s will. It must confess that it is wrong. It must give up its own way. It must obey the Lord Jesus. It must give up all its glory. Only in this way can the Lord Jesus have all and be all in our lives. We must die to self.”
Repentance must begin with humility, because even our repentance can be motivated by pride. We may turn from our ways only to protect our image. We tell ourselves, “I’m a good Christian. I have stopped lying or being lazy because I don’t want to be like the liars and slackers. I’m not like that.” So we look to Christ, who did not give himself to the approval of men, but entrusted himself to the Father.
During Lent, we are trying to make room in our lives for God to shed some light. God will shed light into the dark corners, but that kind of light can only be received with humility. Hession puts it this way: “The man who knows, day by day, the meaning of brokenness is the man who humbly agrees to what God shows him about himself.”
From whom do you want approval or attention? What are you pursuing or doing in order to lift yourself up?
Are you willing for every stone to be turned over in your soul?
O God of grace … You have imputed my sin to my substitute and you have imputed his righteousness to my soul, clothing me with a bridegroom’s robe, decking me with jewels of holiness. But in my Christian walk I am still in rags; my best prayers are stained with sin; my penitential tears are so much impurity; my confessions of wrong are so many aggravations of sin; my receiving the Spirit is tinctured with selfishness. I need to repent of my repentance.