By Rev. Dr. Richard C. Steinlechner
There is nothing more difficult to learn than the lesson of humility. To know a person who has mastered this subject is extremely rare; so rare that there is only one professor who can teach the subject properly. His name is Jesus Christ.
I find it interesting how a person can look through the Bible, picking out some of the greatest followers of God, and they all seemed to be gifted with a wonderful, attractive humility of character. What a contrast that is from how the world says we should be.
A favorite example for me of humility would be John the Baptist. What an incredible servant of the Lord. Remember when the priests and Levites sent a delegation to ask John who he was? Here was a man who was as honest and humble as they come. The delegation asked him if he was the Christ – the Messiah that had been promised by the prophets. Then they asked him if he was Elijah, who had come back to them. They even asked him if he was the Prophet. Let’s look at the exact wording from the Gospel of John, Chapter 1 and verses 19 through 23.
19, Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20, He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.” 21, They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22, Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23, John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ”
Now, think this through for a moment. John the Baptist was being shown a lot of attention by many important people. If John wasn’t operating within the power of God, how would he have responded? There are several things John could have truthfully said.
“Well gentlemen, I am the son of a wonderful priest of old, named Zacharias. I’m sure you have heard of him, and perhaps you have even heard of my preaching. I have recently been preaching out here in the desert and baptizing an awful lot of people; perhaps even more than any man living today. I have a lot of things to say in my sermons so I hope you all come and listen and learn.”
But, that was not John the Baptist. No man of humility could speak that way. Look at what the Gospel writer, Mark, wrote about John the Baptist’s conversations. He gives us some details in Mark, Chapter 1 and verse 7. It is a wonderful insight into this man.
7, And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.”
Once again we see his humility. Think about the circumstances of what was going on at the time. Jesus was seen as a small-town carpenter who couldn’t possibly be the Messiah; and John the Baptist was elevated in the sight of men, to a much higher plane than even Jesus. Huge crowds were coming into the desert to hear him preach and even Herod came to hear him. Yet, humility always reigned. Look at how Jesus responded to all this. We have seen His words in Matthew, Chapter 11 and verse 29.
29, Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
And, what was John the Baptist’s response? We can read it in John 3:30.
30, He must become greater; I must become less.
That is the example of humility that has been set for each of us. We won’t always be successful at meeting that example, but the more we can surrender our lives to Christ, the more like Him we will become.
Rev. Dr. Richard C. Steinlechner is pastor of New Lebanon Community Church.