by H.H. Pope Shenouda III
The Son has invited us to learn humility from Him and said: "Learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart" (Matt. 11:29), and thus the most important thing that we learn from Him is humility.
In this, the Apostle Saint Paul says about Christ our Lord: "who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself. " (Philippians 2: 6-8). That is, He made Himself of no reputation from all the manifestations of majesty and honor that are suitable to his divinity, taking the image of the bondservant. What humility more than that could possibly exist?
The divine Providence resides in this humility. So long as the first sin which entered the world was pride, whether as regards Satan or man, thus it was fitting for the Saviour to conquer it by humility.
The Incarnation was, in this manner, the greatest action of humility, with which the Lord shamed that pride by which Satan deceived our first parents, that they would become like God (Gen. 3:5). In response to man becoming like God, God became in appearance like a man through His humility.
In a despicable place, from a poor mother who was betrothed to a poor carpenter, and from a village that was: "the least among the rulers of Judah, Bethlehem" (Matt. 2: 5-6). He was not ashamed to be called Nazarite, while it was said in wonder: "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46).
He accepted to run away to Egypt from the sword of Herod, while it was possible for Him to annihilate Herod. He lived thirty years far away from lights.
Although He is the Person of wisdom and knowledge, "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3), He accepted that it was said of Him: "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men" (Luke 2:52).
During all the period of his predication, He lived and had "nowhere to lay His head" (Luke 9:58), without any official post in society, followed by simple disciples, the majority of which were fishermen and ignorant. When He went to Jerusalem, he went "sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Matt. 21:5).
Is He not the One who said: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (Matt. 5: 17-18).
In His submission to the Law, He was circumcised in the eighth day (Luke 2:21).
In the fortieth day from His birthday, "they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, 'Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord'), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "A pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons" (Luke 2: 22-23).
And according to the law, He did not begin His pastoral service, until He was in the thirtieth year of His life, in conformity to the mature age which is supposed to be in any man, although when He was twelve years of age, He was found in the temple "sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers" (Luke 2:46-47).
This was the baptism of repentance. He was not in need of it because He is the Holy One (Luke 1:35), who in His Incarnation, resembled us in everything except sin. He accepted baptism from one of His servants, John the Baptist, who tried to excuse himself from that, saying to Him: "I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me? But Jesus answered and said (humbly) to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matt. 3: 14-15), meaning the righteousness of the law, to which He submitted Himself out of humility.
It was not only one temptation, but three times on the mountain. The profoundness of His humility and His making Himself of no reputation, reached such a point that Satan "took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me" (Matt. 4: 8-9). Oh, the audaciousness and the insolence of the malignant one in his exploitation of the humility of the Lord! It is for that reason that the Lord, after having replied to Satan by the Scriptures, rebuked him saying: "Away with you, Satan... Then the devil left Him" (Matt. 4:10-11). But Saint Luke says about that: "Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time" (Luke 4:13), meaning that Satan returned after that!
The apostle Saint Paul said "He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8). He said to His disciples about Himself: "I have food to eat of which you do not know. My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work" (John 4: 22,24). And He said to the Jews: "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner" (John 5:19). And He said to the Father: "nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42); "nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will" (Matt 26:39). And He said: "I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me" (John 5:30).
His obedience was not only to the heavenly Father, but also to His mother Mary.
It was said regarding His relation to the Virgin and to Joseph the carpenter, during His childhood: "Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them" (Luke 2:51). That is a lesson for us from Him who "the angels ministered" (Mark 1:13), (1 Peter 3:22).
The scribes and the pharisees despised these publicans, and scorned to mingle with them. But the Lord chose one of them (Matthew) to become His disciple. On this occasion, He sat at table in a feast which the publicans prepared; and when the pharisees criticised Him (Matt. 9: 911), the Lord in His humility replied to them: "I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance" (Matt. 9:13).
He also called Zacchaeus in the same manner, and entered his house.
It is out of His humility that He sat down in the houses of the pharisees, His enemies, such as His visit to the house of Simeon the Pharisee; and His permission to the woman who was a sinner, to touch Him and wipe His feet with the hair of her head, the thing that upset that pharisee (Luke 7).
He marched in simplicity with the children, with the women, and with ordinary people, speaking plainly to them, without haughtiness or contemptuousness, as a human being.
On many occasions, He called Himself the Son of Man. It was said about Him in His humility: "He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench"(Matt. 12: 19-20).
Consider His rejection of transforming stones into bread, and His refusal to throw Himself down the pinnacle of the temple so that the angels would carry Him on their wings (Matt. 4).
When the Jews asked Him for a miracle to show off, He said to them: "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matt. 12:39), thus directing their sights to His death, not to His miracles.
He said to the Father about them: "And the glory which You gave me I have given them" (John 17:22). He said even more than that: "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also, and greater works than these he will do" (John 14:12).
The apostle Saint Paul said about them: "For whom He foreknew, He also ordained... these He also glorified" (Rom 8: 29-30).
He also allowed to them that His churches and His sanctuaries would be built on their names; that their icons would be portrayed and that candles would be burnt in front of their icons; that hymns and doxologies would be sung for them.
It is their work that shows that the grace of the Lord works in them. Nobody sees the grace. The apostle Saint Paul manifested this when he said:
"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (1 Cor. 15:10).
He was insulted, struck with the palms of the hands, offended, scourged, and injustly accused. He accepted all that, without defending Himself, and without returning their iniquity upon them. It was said of Him: "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent" (Is. 53:7). He was crucified between two thieves. "and He was numbered with the transgressors" (Is. 53:12).
"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21). He bore the sins of all the world. "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted" (Is. 53:4); "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Is. 53:6). Thus He was crucified as a worker of iniquity, yet He is the Just and sinless, and He accepted to be a sacrifice of sin in front of the Father.
This resurrection could have possibly been apparent to all in a dazzling manner that would restore His consideration in front of the Jews. But in His humility He did not do that; and He left to His apostles to announce His resurrection among the doubts which the Jews had raised.
Because of all this, He has invited us to learn humility from Him and said: "Learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart" (Matt. 11:29), and thus the most important thing that we learn from Him is humility. And in His sermon on the mountain, He gave the first blessing to the poor in spirit, then He gave the blessing to the humble.
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