A Lesson in Humility

Posted by Dave Walters
How are you at loving others? Caldwell's theme verse for the year from Galatians 5:13 encourages us to serve one another humbly in love.

Director of Marketing and Communications Dave Walters reflects on how aspects of the Last Supper reveal practical truth and a meaningful example for Christ's followers today.
Caldwell Academy’s theme verse for the 2021-2022 school year comes from the second part of Galatians 5:13, which reads, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” We praise God for evidence of this humble service throughout the school year. Whether students holding doors for classmates and teachers, teachers giving up free time to help students, or parents volunteering on committees or in the lunchroom, there have been many illustrations of humble service at Caldwell this year.

I’m grateful for his year’s theme verse as I often need to be reminded of humility’s importance. That’s why I was thankful for another reminder as I recently read through the opening chapters of Sinclair Ferguson’s Lessons From the Upper Room. Using chapters 13-17 of John’s gospel, Ferguson set the dramatic scene of Christ’s final gathering with His closest friends on the night in which He was betrayed. Christ gave His disciples a very clear picture of how His followers should serve one another.

As we recall Christ’s life, suffering, and resurrection this Easter, I’d like to share some reflections from John 13:1-17 that encouraged me as I try to serve others humbly in love.

Picture the scene. Thirteen men gathered for the Passover meal in an upper room. One would leave early. The remaining 12 would later go to Gethsemane. Soon thereafter, Christ will be crucified. We know how the events would play out and Christ knew how they would play out, but the others in the room did not. Soon Judas would be dismissed to betray Christ. Soon Peter would deny Christ three times. Before they left, Jesus prayed the longest prayer in the New Testament in which we see the nature of His relationship with God the Father, His love for His disciples, those present, and those to come. It’s a dramatic occasion.

Christ Loves to The End
In the first verse, we’re reminded of how Jesus loved His own who were in the world “to the end.” The Puritan writer John Bunyan wrote, “Love in Christ decays not, nor can be tempted to do so by anything that happens, or that shall happen hereafter, in the object so beloved.” Here in the final days of Christ’s life, His love remains. And as we see, it doesn’t weaken or wane but remains strong right up to the point of His death on the cross. Christ didn’t change his mind. In His final days, we see an example of complete and total sacrifice. He held nothing back.

How about you? If I am willing to sacrifice something, I’m only going to sacrifice up to a certain point. And if you betray me, we’re done. If you forsake me, you can forget about getting any kindness out of me. But Christ’s love and Christ’s sacrifice aren’t like ours. As pastor and author Dane Ortlund writes, “We love up to a limit. Christ loves to the end.”

May we seek to love more like Christ. May we not grow weary of doing good and seeking opportunities to share Christ’s love with the dying world around us. While we can’t love exactly like Christ, may we draw comfort and hope from the reality that He loves us to the end. Even when we’re not lovely and when we betray Him, Christ’s love for His children continues.

A Living Parable
Christ demonstrated that Galatians 5:13 love at the outset of the Passover meal. This was a private occasion. A house servant may not have been there to wash feet when Christ and the disciples arrived. So, what does Christ do about it? He washes the disciples’ feet and models an example of genuine, sacrificial love. Nobody else apparently thought about this washing. Luke’s account of this night tells how the disciples disputed which of them would be the greatest (Luke 22:24-30).

This foot-washing was about much more than just removing the dirt from the disciples’ feet. It was a living parable that shows Christ’s followers who He is and what He has come to do.

Christ got up from His seat, went to the corner of the room, took off His outer garments, put on a towel, and poured the water into a basin. This is the Son of God, One with the Father, God Incarnate, who stooped on His knees washing the dirt off of the feet of His followers who were too invested in themselves to perform this service. As Christ washed their feet, His saw disciples Almighty God humbly serving sinful man. (The account keenly aligns with Paul’s description of Christ’s humility in Philippians 2:6-9.)

Christ wants us to understand His washing of the disciples’ feet in the upper room is a model for the Christian lifestyle. Christ washed away the stain and guilt of sin by giving up His life for us. He has reconciled us and given us the power of the Holy Spirit to live according to His example. If we’re truly following Christ, our calling is to live as His servant.

Reading Between the Lines
There was a scene that night in the upper room, yet we have no record of it. It is something I had never before considered, but once Ferguson brought it to mind, it added to my understanding of who Christ is and the challenge of His example.

Christ, the Son of God made flesh, washed the feet of Judas Iscariot.

Ponder that for a moment.

Christ knew He would be betrayed and His betrayer. The betrayal fulfilled Psalm 41:9, which perhaps gave the disciples comfort as the final hours of Christ’s time on earth unfolded. But when they realized Christ washed the Judas’ feet that night, they saw there are no exceptions to the feet we are called to wash. We will always find those who are difficult to love, yet Christ calls us to love them still.

Christ’s example was not hard to understand. The act of imitating his selfless behavior towards others is easy to grasp, but not as easy to do. How do we overcome our fears, doubts, and pride? By recalling Jesus did this for us. We, like Judas or Peter, have at one time or another denied or betrayed His love. As Ferguson asks, “If Jesus has taken the servant’s role for us, shouldn’t we do the same for others?”

The more we understand our identity as a bondservant of Christ, it will be easier to serve one another humbly in love, even the difficult people. Peter didn’t deserve to have his feet washed by the Savior and neither did Judas. But Christ washed both of their feet anyway. Even so, those who claim Christ as Lord do not deserve the gifts of forgiveness and Christ’s righteousness.

This Easter may we look to Christ’s example of unconditional and sacrificial love. May we take comfort in His sacrifice for sinful souls like ours and may we seek daily to serve one another humbly in love.