[MARK 11:12-19] And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it. And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.
We are to think of ourselves with “sober judgment, according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:4). In other words, the humble person knows who he is, and whose he is.
This is the secret to Jesus’ remarkable humility. Even as a child, Jesus was about his Father’s business. People always questioned his identity, but he was not thrown off by their doubt or criticism (Mark 8:27-30). When the crowds were flocking to Jesus, he withdrew to prayer. He did not need the approval of the masses because he was rooted in the words that came down from heaven: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). Without any hubris, Jesus could say, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Without self-concern, Jesus could say, “The Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death” (Mark 10:33). Jesus lived and died for us.
In contrast to pride and fear, the humility we see in Jesus is marked by dependence and confidence. If we aspire to walk in this path, we will have to think with sober judgment. We will have to be clear-eyed about who we are and whose we are. Where do we get this kind of clarity?
The gospel tells us who we are: We are made in the image of God, created in his likeness for his glory. This truth speaks to both our dignity and our dependence. Before and after the fall, people need God in every aspect of life, “for in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
The gospel tells us whose we are: We belong to God, body and soul. He is our Maker, to whom we belong by virtue of design. He is our Father, whom we belong to by means of adoption. He is our Master, and we are his bondservants. He is our king, and we are his subjects. “Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).
We believe this gospel, but we need help in our unbelief. We need others to remind us of the gospel, to speak the truth in love for our edification. We must be grounded in community if we are to be rooted in the gospel. In other words, the very people from whom we are trying to hide our true selves, God has ordained to help us see.
To use Dan Allender’s phrase, “You can’t see your own face.” That is, when God shines light on our lives, as we have been talking about, we become visible to others. We desperately need them to tell us what they see, good and bad. It’s not that other people’s opinions are absolute truth, but neither are our isolated opinions of ourselves. To be humble means we are willing to be seen as we are, by God and man. Our pride resists this kind of exposure, but it takes humility to become humble.
Roy Hession comments: “We cannot be in the light with God, and in the darkness with our brother … We must be willing to know ourselves for what we really are, and we must be willing for our brother to know this as well. We will not hide ourselves from those with whom we should be in fellowship. We will not cover our faults. We will speak the truth about ourselves with them. We will be ready to give up our spiritual privacy. We will not keep bad feelings in our hearts about another person.”
If we aspire to love one another, then we aspire to be humble enough to accept and speak to whatever the light reveals. In humility we are becoming less concerned with our prestige. Our wills are breaking and we are not demanding our rights anymore. On the journey to the cross, fear is losing its grip as we cling to our identity in Christ. Pride is being starved because we are letting go of our need to be right and our desires to be recognized. We are being liberated from the solitary confinement of self-concern.
How does your community help you know who and whose you are?
Are you walking in darkness with those who are close to you?
What aspects of the gospel do you need to believe anew today?
O Lord Jesus Christ, you are enthroned in the majesty of heaven, yet you gave up that heavenly perfection to become a servant. We adore you for laying aside your glory and clothing yourself in complete humility as one of us. We praise you for the example of washing your disciples’ feet. Teach us to do as you have done. Deliver us from pride, jealousy, and ambition, and make us ready to serve one another in lowliness for your sake, O Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.