It has been evident throughout history that people will not willingly follow someone they feel superior to. You’ve seen it in business when a younger, less-experienced person has been promoted above those with age, skills and wisdom. In the military, a Second Lieutenant, fresh from the academy has a hard time gaining respect from seasoned Master Sergeants and war-hardened troops. Guys with life experience aren’t easily persuaded by those with education.
Peter faced a similar challenge. Jesus was asking him to, “Come follow Me.” Now, here’s a man’s man, a crusty fisherman who gives more orders than he takes, does what he wants, goes where he wants, says whatever he wants. How is he going to submit to someone else leading his life? How is he going to give control to another person?
Remember, after the big catch of fish, Peter fell down at Jesus’ feet and said: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
Peter is in the middle of an identity crisis. That happens when you get a glimpse of yourself stripped of ego, standing exposed for who you really are. He was humbled.
Humbling means lowering your perception of yourself. The Bible says not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. It tells us we must humble ourselves before God will lift us up, but also it shows us how He can humble us.
When Peter saw himself in contrast to who Jesus was, he was humbled. When he fell to his knees he was humbling himself.
In that moment, Peter saw that he was less of a man than he had promoted himself to be. He looked at Jesus’ purity. He saw his sin. He looked at Jesus’ purpose. He saw his floundering. He looked at Jesus’ power. He saw his weakness.
In an instant, this man who made life all about himself gained new perspective. To follow Jesus, Jesus must become the center of Peter’s life.
A few years ago, the word of the Year by the American Dialect Society in Anaheim, CA, was plutoed. It was coined when a vote involving just 424 astronomers at a meeting of the International Astronomical Union in Prague, on August 24, 2006, decided Pluto was no longer a planet. The word means “to demote or devalue someone or something.”
Most of us can’t handle the thought of being plutoed. We want to advance, we want to promote, we want to gain the advantage.
But to follow, we must submit—place ourselves under the authority of someone else’s leadership.
Leonard Bernstein, the famous orchestra conductor was once asked: what is the most difficult instrument to play in the orchestra? He said: second fiddle. Everyone wants the lead. Nobody wants to follow.
It would take humility for the men Jesus chose to play second to His lead to be able to follow Him.
When pride rules, it is hard to admit we need a God, a Lord, a master, to even say, we need help.
Someone said: When pride walks onto the platform, God walks off.
When Peter saw the limitations of what he brought to the table, he faced the challenge and chose humility.
Levi (or Matthew) had a similar moment.
Luke 5:27 After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow Me." And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house, and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?" And Jesus answered and said to them, "It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."
Was Jesus looking at Matthew when He said this? At other times Jesus proved He could see inside the minds of people and know their thoughts. He could see into their hearts and know the sincerity of what they were saying or doing. Was this why Matthew dropped everything at the tax table and followed Jesus?
Or was he the tax collector of another story? Luke 18:10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' "I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Here’s a man showing the kind of humility required to follow Jesus. Are we seeing a pattern yet? The path to being made right with God or to inviting Him into the issues of our lives requires us to acknowledge we are more with Him than we are without Him.
Those who don’t believe they are sick are not going to go to the doctor. Those who don’t believe they are ignorant are not going to seek information. Those who don’t believe they have a problem they can’t handle are not going to admit they need help.
Look at healing. Jesus healed many people throughout His ministry. Luke tells us of one where the man confessed Jesus as his only hope. Luke 5:12 While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately the leprosy left him.
What made this healing unique was the confession: Lord, I have a need. You have the answer. I submit my need to You and trust You for the result. That’s humility. I can’t fix my problem. You can. I’m not the most important one here, You are.
What did John the Baptizer say? He must increase; I must decrease. Or in a more personal statement: For Him to increase, I must decrease. I will not place myself underneath the Lord, nor will I ever submit to His control over my life as long as I feel I am more important. We cannot compete with Him for who’s in control.
The Pharisees saw themselves in control of Jewish life. One day they were challenging Jesus about His obvious disregard for their traditions, specifically, the Sabbath obligations. “Why do you and your men do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” In other words, Do You think You are above our rules?
Luke 6:5 And He was saying to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward!" And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, "I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?" After looking around at them all, He said to him, "Stretch out your hand!" And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage…
Why? They saw Jesus acting as though He was superior to them and their beliefs, which is an interesting observation because He was! His words challenged them because they came with authority which means you have to believe or dismiss. They can’t be ignored.
So He challenged them with outcomes. Let’s play this out. According to your response, one of these two results will be true.
Luke 6:46 "Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? "Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. "But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great."
If you are building on the wrong foundation, your life will crumble. You will be like a man who placed his ladder on a wall and spent his whole life climbing that ladder, only to find out he had leaned it against the wrong wall. He didn’t follow the instructions.
Why are we given instructions? Because the success of the final product depends upon accurately putting the pieces together as they are designed to fit.
Instructions are burdensome to those of us who think we can accomplish the end without them. I don’t need no stinking instructions. Instructions are for those who can’t figure out what to do. Instructions are for those who need help. They are a crutch.
Ever hear that in reference to Jesus? Christianity is a crutch. Salvation is for weak people. Following Jesus is for those who don’t have what it takes to blaze their own trails. It is for the ignorant and inferior.
I’ll be the first to admit: I’m one of those. That’s me. I am the sick one who needs a Divine Physician. I am the sinful man who feels ashamed to stand in the presence of the Lord. I am the sinner, beating my chest, crying out for the mercy of God.
Jesus said to the Pharisees, the one who thinks he can justify himself apart from Me can count on his life crumbling. But, the one who humbly submits to Me, he will stand.
In South America, the llama is a cultural metaphor for arrogance. To keep a herd of llamas corralled, you don’t even need a fence. All you need is one rope circling around the herd to keep them enclosed. Just by placing it at a height between the head and base of the neck, the llamas are trapped. Rather than stooping beneath the rope, they will stand tall, proud but captive.
Why were the Nations of Israel and Judah both taken captive? They had lowered the importance of God over them, choosing to run their lives according to their own desires. They elevated themselves and their wants above Him. They plutoed God.
How did God respond: Jer 13:17 But if you will not listen to it, My soul will sob in secret for such pride; And my eyes will bitterly weep And flow down with tears, Because the flock of the LORD has been taken captive.
Pride makes us think we’re the answer. Humility reminds us He is.
· How do I respond to the doctor’s diagnosis? Jesus
· How do I handle the crisis of my adult children? Jesus
· How do I face a life that’s dwindling down? Jesus
· How do I help my grandchildren deal with life? Jesus
· How do I rest in peace during my fiery ordeal? Jesus
- The hardest actions are the ones that require humility.
- Humility doesn’t expose weakness, it admits it.
- When I admit I need the Lord, I am demonstrating faith not failure.
- If I refuse to admit I need the Lord, I am not declaring my strength but exposing my lack of it.
- Since we didn’t create the life, to think we know better how it should be lived than the One who did create it, we are setting our hopes on a false foundation.