Teach Us, Lord, True Humility

18th Sunday after Pentecost

Teach Us, Lord, True Humility

Text: Mark 9:30-37


“No!  I’m the greatest!” said Matthew.  “Jesus handpicked me even though I was a sinful tax collector.”  “No!  I’m the greatest!” said Judas.  “I’m entrusted with all of the money.”  “No!  We’re the greatest!” said James and John.  “Jesus picked us brothers to be his disciples!  And both of us were there when he raised Jairus’ daughter and to see Jesus’ glory on the Mount of Transfiguration!”  “No!  I’m the greatest!” said Peter.  “Jesus picked me first, and my brother Andrew is a disciple too!  I was also there with Jairus daughter.  I was also there on the Mount of Transfiguration!  And, I walked on water with Jesus!  So there!  I’m the greatest!”

Jesus arrived with his disciples at their destination in Capernaum after another long day of walking.  They took off their sandals and tunics and began to settle down to relax.  But first Jesus had something to ask them.

The whole trip there Jesus had been teaching them.  He had been teaching them important things.  But there was a constant whispering and arguing while he was talking.  He saw frustrated and disgusted looks.  Being God, Jesus knew exactly what had happened, but he was giving them a chance to confess it.  So he asked them:  What were you arguing about on the road?”

The disciples suddenly fell quiet.  They couldn’t look him in the eye.  Their heads were shamefully bowed low and their eyes darted back and forth from the ground to glances at one another.  No one said anything because while Jesus had been teaching them important things, they had been arguing about who was the greatest.  Part of each disciple was disappointed with his own actions, the other part was still angry at the others for thinking they were the greatest.

Can you believe how arrogant, foolish, and haughty these disciples were?  They had the honor of being in the very presence of Jesus.  They had the honor of being hand-selected as his closest disciples.  The Son of God was personally instructing them.  But instead of humbly listening, their childish argument about who was the best became more important.  Their priorities were certainly askew.

Jesus had some more teaching to do.  He sat down and called the twelve to gather around.  If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  In a world where power and money talked, in a world where the Roman Empire ruled with impressive strength, this was something completely unusual to them. If they wanted to be first, they needed to be last.  If they wanted to be the top, they needed to be the bottom.  If they wanted to be ruler, they needed to be servant.  This didn’t make sense!

So Jesus gave them an object lesson.  He took a little child and had him stand among them.  Taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’”

A child.  A child would be the last to come to mind in an argument about who is the greatest!  But children trust Jesus with simple faith.  They are unafraid to talk about Jesus or sing about Jesus.  They aren’t concerned about who is the greatest.  That’s true humility.

Not only could the disciples learn humility from little children, they could learn humility from welcoming little children.  It takes a humble man to take time out of a busy day and schedule to welcome and spend time with little children—especially if they are not your own children.  Being like little children and welcoming little children, that’s how the disciples could learn true humility.

Lesson learned, right?  Not at all!  Amazingly, in the next chapter in Mark is the famous story of Jesus welcoming the little children.  Yet while Jesus was welcoming those children, with these words still somewhat fresh in their minds, the disciples rebuked those parents for bringing their children.  Can you believe it?

Not only that, but just after that James, John, and their mother came to Jesus with a special request.  James and John wanted to sit at his right and left in positions of honor and glory in heaven.  Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to die for the sin of the world, and all they were concerned about was who was going to have the bigger and better throne in heaven.  Can you believe it?


Can you believe these disciples would do that, having learned this hard lesson from Jesus about humility?  And can you believe . . . how similar we are to those disciples?

Consider the privileges that we have like those disciples.  We have the honor of being God’s own chosen people, adopted as his children through Jesus.  We have the privilege of having Jesus’ very words written and recorded for us to read and listen to and learn from.  We have the privilege of being able to gather together in places like this in the presence of God to worship and praise him.  It’s much like the privilege the disciples had walking with Jesus and having him personally teach them.  What an honor!

Yet somehow there are things we find to be more important in life.  The words of Jesus sit closed in “just another book” collecting dust on our shelves.  The words of Jesus are ignored as we drift off with our thoughts at church:  “Is my roast burning in the oven? . . . Will the Jaguars win again this week?  Pastor said they would lose last week. . . . They still haven’t changed that light bulb on the pendant light?”

Rather than listening to Jesus teach them about their own salvation, the disciples were more concerned about themselves.  Who was the greatest among them?  In the same way we so quickly become more concerned about ourselves.  Anything and everything from sleep to work to fun time to beach time to family time to just being downright lazy can become so important to us.

The amount of time we spend in church or in Bible study or in personal Bible reading or in prayer to the Lord speaks very loudly.  Or perhaps I should say, the lack of time and attention we devote to the Lord speaks loudly.  It says, “I think I’m the greatest . . . and the Lord comes somewhere later when I can find time for him.”

Isn’t that what the disciples did?  Not only were they more concerned about their personal trivial quarrels than what Jesus had to say, but they also felt as though they were more important than what Jesus had to say.

Jesus asked the disciples, What were you arguing about on the road?”  They couldn’t even respond because they knew how wrong they had been.  What if Jesus looked you in the eyes and asked you some questions:  “Why have you been so angry lately?  Why do you always talk about other people’s business?  Why do you constantly put others down so that you look better?  Why do you think your opinion is the greatest?”

Or what if Jesus pulled you aside and asked you face to face, “What were you doing that was so important on Sunday morning?  Do you really spend more time with American Idol, Survivor,and Monday Night Football than you do with me?  Do you really prefer to read a book like 50 Shades of Grey instead of hearing what I have to say in Scripture?”

What would we respond?  What would we say to Jesus?  I think like the disciples, ashamed and embarrassed, we would bow our heads low and not say anything at all.  Or God willing, perhaps we would kneel before Jesus and say, “Have mercy on me, Lord.  Teach Us, Lord, True Humility.”


Mercifully, Jesus pulls us up to our feet.  He calls us to gather around.  Class is in session.  Jesus is about to teach humility.

He pulls back the long sleeves of his robe.  “Look,” he says.  “Look at these holes.”  He takes off his sandals.  “Look,” he says.  “Look at these holes, too.”

“You have ignored me.  You have tuned me out.  You have disobeyed me.  You have defied me.  I was scorned and rejected by all sinners.  Including you.”

“But look at these holes.  They are for you.  I suffered for you.  I became guilty of sin for you.  I died for you.  I am not always important to you.  But you are always important to me.  I forgive you.”

This is what Jesus was trying to teach his disciples on the road that day.  While the disciples foolishly argued about who was the greatest, they were ignoring Jesus as he told them the most important news of all time:  The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.  They will kill him, and after three days he will rise again.”

There is nothing more important or more critical in this world than knowing that Jesus suffered, died, and rose again.  Yet our haughty selfishness takes over and our lives and our families become most important.  We do the exact same thing as the disciples.

Isn’t it a marvel then, to see what Jesus did next?  He didn’t walk away.  He didn’t angrily return to heaven.  “Fine!  If you don’t want to hear about this, if you don’t want this, then I’m not going to do it!”

Instead, Jesus humbly marched on.  These were just more sins Jesus needed to forgive.  So he continued on to Jerusalem.  He humbly marched in while riding on a donkey.  He humbly allowed his own friend, Judas, to betray him.  He humbly stood silent before his accusers.  He humbly allowed the very people he created to nail him to a cross.  He humbly allowed the guilt of the world be put on his innocent shoulders.  He humbly bowed his head as the living God and died for sinners who deserve it so much more than he.  He humbly became our servant so that we could be rulers reigning with him in heaven.

We pray with sorrowful hearts, “Teach Us, Lord, True Humility.”  But we need not look any further than Jesus himself.  There we see humility.  There we see compassion.  There we see love.  There we see forgiveness.  We see it and experience it to the fullest, because it was all done for us.


Jesus pulls his sleeves back down and covers the scars of his wounds for us.  “Now,” Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.  Be the last.  Be a servant.  Be like a little child.”

With forgiven and free hearts, the life lesson has sunk in deep into our bones.  I don’t need to put others down.  I don’t need to talk behind others’ backs.  I don’t need to get my way.  I don’t need to always be right.  I don’t need to be frustrated.  I don’t need to get so upset.

I can trust Jesus like a little child.  I can serve others.  I can help others.  I can be kind and considerate.  I can be patient.  I can be understanding.  I can be loving.

Why?  Because Christ did that with me.

Aha!  Jesus has just taught us true humility.



About Pastor Phil Huebner

Pastor. Missionary. Principal. Husband. Father. Serving in love as each. http://www.ctkpalmcoast.com

Posted on September 30, 2012, in Church, Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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