Discipleship Requires Humility

My posts this week are focused on Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV).

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:16-20, NIV)

While many of us are very familiar with verses 18-20, what is often referred to as the Great Commission, we often pass over verse 17 where Matthew says but some doubted. We are not told who doubted or what they doubted—just that some of the disciples did. I think the reason Matthew includes this in his gospel is to show us how Jesus responded to those who were doubting. He responded in two ways:

  1. He responded in humility. He didn’t rebuke them, He came near to them.
  2. He responded with grace. He included them in the Great Commission and promised to be with them.

What I have been learning is that the humility and grace that Jesus showed His disciples is no less important for us to show today to those we are discipling. Discipling people requires humility and grace. Why?

Discipleship requires humility because we have a natural inclination to think more of ourselves than we should, and less of others than we should. When we think we are right we like it to show, and when we think others are wrong we like them to know!

Think about how Jesus responded here. While Matthew does not spell out in what ways and for what reasons there was doubt among some of the disciples, Jesus knew what it was. More than that He knew there was no reason for them to doubt who He was, what was happening, or that they were ready to carry on without Him physically being there. Anything He said would have been right. Yet Jesus does not do so. Instead of responding in correction, He exercises humility. We see this humility in three ways:

His response is meek. He had the right to call them out for their doubt. He had the authority to do so. Yet He chose meekness over criticism. More than once in the gospels we come across the scary phrase, “Jesus knew what they were thinking.” He probably knew what their struggle was. And we know that Jesus was not opposed to calling out what was going on in the hearts and minds of His disciples. But He does not to that here. Just because you are in the position to correct, rebuke, or call a spade a spade, it does not mean it is always the loving thing to do.

We are not in Jesus’ position. We are not always right, even when we think we are. If Jesus showed meekness towards His disciples how much more should we? Billy Graham said, “It is God’s job to judge, the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, and my job to love.” As we disciple people, we need to do so with a humility that shows itself in meekness.

His humility is seen in His discretion. He chose not to verbally correct them. Sometimes the most effective way to help people through their struggles, doubts, and problems is to not address them. It is clear from Jesus’ dealing with the Pharisees that he was not averse to discussing people’s specific spiritual problems. But in this case, he does not mention any at all. Jesus did something similar when He met Zacchaeus. There were no words of criticism for Zacchaeus’ robbing from his own people to satisfy his own greed. He gave no sermon on the injustice of the Roman government in so heavily taxing the people, or in not assuring that taxes were collected fairly and justly. Jesus simply said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

Now, the crowd did not admire the fact that Christ was so gracious. It is one thing to forgive someone. It is quite another to go home and eat with a guy who has been extorting an entire region of people for years. They were waiting for the lecture on everyone’s responsibility to take the law seriously. Or perhaps one about how Rome was on the way out and how God’s patience with them was just paper-thin and would end at any moment. Where was the prophet when you needed one?

Ironically, Jesus was sounding much more like the prophets than the crowd was willing to admit. For example Hosea 6:6 says, For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings, and Micah 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. More often than we may care to admit, discretion is more loving (and more effective) than correction.

The third way we see Jesus’ humility is in His gentleness with them. When we encounter people who don’t seem to get it, or struggle with things we don’t struggle with, our first impulse is to pull back, to distance ourselves, to stand our ground and wait for them to come to where we are. Jesus did the opposite. He responded with gentleness, drawing near to them and reassuring them that He would be with them always.

Discipleship requires humility.

Tomorrow’s post will look at why discipleship requires grace. Hope to see you back. As always, feel free to comment and share your thoughts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s