Humility at Supper

Bible Book: John  13 : 12-17
Subject: Humility; The Lord's Supper; Arrogance; Pride

Humility at Supper

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor,
John 13:12-17 ...
12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

In the text before us we discover that Jesus met with His disciples in an upper room on the Thursday evening before He was crucified on Friday. The disciples could sense that something was afoot but they were not sure exactly what to make of their apprehensions. Then Jesus did something so unusual that they surely must have looked at Him in amazement. Jesus dressed like a servant, took a basin and towel, and began to wash the feet of the disciples. Afterward He sat among them and shared a great lesson for them to apply to their lives. It is a lesson we all need to learn and re-learn as we live for Christ each day.

Jesus taught the disciples a lesson in humility. Before we receive the Lord's Supper today, I want us to draw some inspiration from this wonderful incident in the life of our Lord.

Now before I address the subject of humility, and how it applies to being a servant of Jesus, I want to clear up some misunderstandings on the subject. Some people view humility as a weakness when it is actually a mighty strength. Think of how humility is misconceived.

1. Humility is not a weakness – it emerges from Confidence

Humility does not mean being shy or withdrawn, as some people think. When I am confident in my calling and my place in God's service, I can humble myself before God and man. I am not in competition with others because I know who I am in Christ and I have respect for others. Jesus was confident. It did not diminish who He was to get a water in a basin in order to wash the disciple’s feet. The disciples did not want to volunteer for the task because each felt that it would make him look weak before the others. In other words, they lacked the confidence in Christ to know that service is the highest form of honor with God. In the Old Testament we read, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the Temple than a ruler in the house of the wicked.” (Psalm 84:10)

2. Humility is not personal withdrawal - it emerges from Love

Humility acts in love rather than position. Pride will act in the best interest for self. Humility will act in the best interest of the one you serve and in the best interest of others. Jesus bowed down to wash His disciple’s feet because He loved the Father and He loved the disciples. The disciples were more interested in self than in service to Christ or to each other. Jesus was teaching them a lesson regarding love.

3. Humility is not a backseat mentality – it emerges from a sense of Purpose

Jesus was just hours from arrest, scourging and crucifixion, yet he bowed down to wash the feet of the disciples who would desert Him in His hour of need. Why would Jesus do that? He did that because He intended to be faithful in duty to the Father to the very end.

The greatest text on humility in the Bible is found in Philippians 2:5-11. We are told in that passage to have the same mind in us that Jesus had when He was on earth. Then, the text explains to us the kind of thinking Jesus exhibited. We are told that He was equal with God, but gave it up to come to this earth and be born in human form, to be a servant, to suffer, even to suffer death on a cross. But we are also told that God raised Him up and gave Him a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of  God the Father! In other words, the humility of Jesus did not cause him to stay in the background but to stand tall for the purpose He came to fulfill. Humility is not the act of being a nobody, but rather it is the quality of taking a loving stand for the purposes that God has given you.

Now, with this in mind, let’s look at some important issues related to humility as presented in the text today.

I. The Exhortation to Humility

The bible clearly exhorts us to humility. Pride was the first sin committed by man. Pride brought the downfall of Lucifer, and pride led Adam and Eve to sin as well. So, humility is a big issue and must not ever be viewed as a simple act of human nature which occurs without consequences.

Arrogance and pride are still twin issues that form on of the greatest problems we face in most churches. People get mad and turn on each other over things that should be handled in kindness and love. Families do the same thing. What hardships and harm the sin of pride has caused, and yet most people continue to boast in personal accomplishments, the family blood line, or the false sense of grandeur in the possessions of more things than someone else. As someone once said, "The winner is the one who dies with the most toys." How silly is that?

Note something interesting in our text today. The disciples called Jesus, “Teacher and Lord.” But when Jesus repeated the titles He did so in opposite order: “Lord and Teacher.” Indeed, Lordship comes before discipleship. Christ taught that humility is an important lesson to be learned, especially among those who would walk closely with Him. If He is not viewed first as Lord, He will not likely be listened to as teacher.

Dwight L. Moody once said, "The beginning of humility is to be little; the increase of humility is to be less; and the perfection of humility is to be nothing."

It has been said of some Christians that they can strut while sitting down. To truly follow Jesus is to become nothing so as to allow Him to become everything in our lives. As John the Baptist said it, "He must increase, but I must decrease."

This is a lesson all of us need to discover, rediscover and assimilate into our thinking, speaking and practice. In what area is pride negatively affecting your life? Is it separating you from others? Is it keeping you from humbling yourself in service to Christ, His Church and fellow Christians? God is calling us to turn from pride and embrace humility. We always stand tallest when we are on our knees!

II. The Demonstration of Humility

Jesus did not just call for humility, He practiced it. From His incarnation to His crucifixion, Jesus acted in humility in order to be our Savior.

  • Our precious Lord laid down the glory crown at the throne to pick up the gory crown at the cross.
  • He stepped from streets of gold in heaven to walk the Via Delorosa.
  • He left the praises of the angels to come to this world and accept the curses of sinners.
  • Just before He went to the cross, He knelt to accept the humble role of a slave and washed His disciple’s feet.

No wonder the songwriter penned, “Hallelujah, what a Savior!”

Why did Jesus do these things? Jesus accepted the path that led to the cross, and in doing so He sought to teach us the way to victory through humility. He did not wash the feet of the disciples to institute an ordinance within the church. There are only two such ordinances, one of which is baptism and the other is the Lord's Supper. In washing the disciple's feet Jesus meant to show us the way we are to live. He wanted to show us that our lives should be lived in love, not legalism; in affection, not ambition; and, in humility not haughtiness!

Look at John 13:34-35. What a challenge to every believer.

Dr. Gary Inrig once said, "If I try to make myself as small as I can, I'll never become humble. Humility comes when I stand as tall as I can, and look at all of my strengths, and the reality about me, but I put myself alongside Jesus Christ. And it's there, when I humble myself before Him, and realize the awesomeness of who He is, and I accept God's estimate of myself, and I stop being fooled about myself, and I stop being impressed with myself, that I begin to learn humility."

III. The Compensation in Humility

A. Fellowship with the Savior

We are never closer to Jesus than when we are imitating or emulating His character before others. To be near Jesus, we must be more like Jesus, and to be like Him is to act in humility. Don't misunderstand the subject by thinking that humility is acting meekly and lowly in every situation. God calls many to be leaders and leaders must lead. Boldness is not necessarily pride. Jesus was humble, but He spoke many times with authority, clarity and power. Fellowship with Christ is knowing how to be all you can be while keeping your personal estimation of yourself in check. As I walk with Jesus, He may lead me in paths that call for me to use the skills and abilities He has allowed me to possess. Also, however, walking with Jesus will never allow me to think of any accomplishment as purely my own doing. If you want fellowship with Jesus, you will always be in the midst of the One so great that His very presence will keep your pride in check.

B. Fruitfulness in Service

We cannot produce fruit for the Lord, for the only way for us to be productive is to allow Him to produce fruit through us. Jesus is not going to produce fruit through our pride. The Bible states that He keeps the proud far from Him. Sure, there are those who are used by God and as the results add up they become self-centered and proud. Often, if you watch those people progress, you will see those who act this manner fall flat on their faces somewhere down life's path. Pride goes before the fall, and the fall is greater for those who are standing at the top of the hill that they think they created. When God is blessing you, be careful to guard against the arrogance that can bring all He is accomplishing in your life to come toppling down.

C. Forgiveness of Sin

We must humble ourselves in order to confess our sin, and we can be sure that pride will do everything possible to keep us from bowing down in repentance and confession. Many people never come to Christ for salvation because they are too proud to admit their need of a Savior.

John reminded us in 1 John 1:9  ...

"If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

God is always ready to forgive and cleanse the humble person who honestly and earnestly repents. Someone in this very service is likely finding it hard to admit that you are a sinner, and you find it especially difficult to do so in front of other people. You need to realize, if you are a person like that, that every one in this building today who is truly saved came to Jesus publicly, humble and honestly admitting the need for forgiveness and salvatiaon. Each of us had to make the humble decision to turn to Jesus without shame or embarrassment. The Lord's Supper is a reminder to all of us that Jesus humbled Himself and bore the cross for our sins.

Every believer is reminded by the bread and cup that we are to follow our Lord and serve him in humility. The Christian also is to examine himself and herself before receiving the Lord's Supper. We called upon to renew our dedication to Christ and to renew our humble service to Him each time we receive the Lord's Supper.

Also, we need to remember our Lord's teaching regarding humility as a path to forgiving others. In the Lord’s prayer Jesus states, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” Unless we humble ourselves before God, we cannot possibly walk with Him in true fellowship. Recall today that the Old Testament states that we are to, “...walk humbly with your God…”


Psalm 95:6 ...

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down;

Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” NKJV

Jesus was not kneeling to honor the disciples when He washed their feet, He was rather kneeling to worship and honor the Father. Let us worship and bow down before our Lord this morning. It will honor Him and help us to serve others in His name.

Before we receive the Lord's Supper today, perhaps you wish to come and kneel before Him this morning. In doing so, you can ask for a fresh cleansing before you put the bread and cup to your lips. Also, you can commit your life in renewed humility and service of Christ and others.

Remember, the Lord's Supper is for those who have received Jesus as Savior and Lord. If you do not know Him, turn to Him now. He is calling you. It is time to respond to that call.