Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 12 (1897)


Ms 54, 1897

The Ordinance of Humility


May 20, 1897

Previously unpublished. See DA Chapter 71. Similar to Ms 35, 1897.

“Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go, and prepare us the passover, that we may eat. And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare? And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the good man of the house, the Master saith unto thee, Where is the guest chamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he shall show you a large upper room, furnished; there make ready. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 1

“And they went, and found as he had said unto them; and they made ready the passover. And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; For I say unto you, I will not anymore eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament of my blood, which is shed for you.” [Luke 22:7-20.] 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 2

Christ knew that His hour had come. He Himself was the true Paschal Lamb, and on the day the passover was eaten, He was to be sacrificed. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 3

“And supper being ended, ... he riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments, and took a towel and girded himself.” [John 13:2, 4.] It was customary for a servant to pour water on the feet of the guests, after removing the sandals. This was the attention due every guest, and those who omitted it committed a breach of courtesy. On this occasion all preparations had been made for this service. The pitcher and the basin were there, but no servant was present, and it was the disciples’ part to perform it. But they acted with stoical unconcern, as though they had no consciousness that there was something for them to do. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 4

“There was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted greatest.” [Luke 22:24.] This contention, carried on in the presence of Christ, grieved and wounded Him. They still clung to their favorite idea that Christ would assert His power, and take His position on the throne of David. And in their hearts they each longed for the highest place in the kingdom they hoped He would set up. They had placed their own estimate upon themselves, and upon each other, and in the place of regarding their brethren as more worthy than themselves, they had placed themselves first. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 5

On one occasion, the mother of James and John had gone to Christ with the request that the places on the right and left of His throne be given to her two sons. The other disciples were filled with indignation against James and John. The thought that they would be so presumptuous as to ask for the highest position so stirred the ten that alienation threatened. They felt that they were misjudged, that their fidelity and talents were not appreciated. Judas was the most severe upon James and John. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 6

When the disciples entered the supper room, their hearts were full of resentful feelings. Judas pressed next to Christ on the left side; John was on the right. If there was a highest place, Judas was determined to have it, and that place was thought to be next to Christ. And Judas was a traitor. The pitcher, the bowl, and the towel were there, in preparation for the feetwashing. But each of the disciples, yielding to his wounded pride, determined that he would not be the one to act the part of a servant. By their silence, they refused to humble themselves. They resolved that they would not act as the servant of all. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 7

What an unseemly exhibition of human nature! What will selfish ambition not lead men to do when it takes possession of mind and heart? This was Christ’s last evening with them, and He had much to tell them, but He was obliged to say, “Ye cannot bear it now.” [John 16:12.] Their condition of mind was such that Christ knew they could not bear what He wished to say to them. If they could have heard with sanctified ears and softened hearts what He longed to tell them, they would have been saved from heart-breaking anguish, disappointment, and unbelief. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 8

How is Christ to bring these poor souls to that place where Satan will not gain a decided victory over them? In their present state of mind, how is He to show them that loving service constitutes true humility? A profession of discipleship would not constitute them disciples. But true, humble, loving service would kindle love in their hearts, and enable them to comprehend what He longed to say to them. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 9

Christ knew that the time was come for Him to depart out of the world and go to His Father. And having loved His own, He loved them unto the end. He was already in the shadow of the cross; and the pain was torturing His heart. He knew that by the most humiliating process to which criminals are subjected, He would be put to death. He knew that He would be deserted in the hour of His betrayal. Knowing the terrible future before Him, knowing every indignity that would be heaped upon Him, He might naturally have been overwhelmed with the thought of His own humiliation. But He looked upon the twelve, who had been with Him as His own, and who after His sorrow and pain and shameful usage were over, would be left to struggle in this world under the temptations of a wily foe. His thoughts of what He Himself must suffer were ever connected with His disciples. He did not think of Himself. His care for them was first in His mind. Sorrow filled His heart on account of the spirit they exhibited; He could not open to them the many things He wished to. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 10

The disciples made no movement to act their part in washing the feet of their brethren, and Christ, the divine Teacher, whom they loved and honored, rose from the table, and laying aside His garments, took a towel, and girded Himself. The disciples looked on with surprised interest, and in perfect silence waited to see what next He would do. “After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.” [John 13:5.] This action opened the eyes of the disciples. Bitter shame and humiliation filled their hearts. They understood the unspoken rebuke, and saw themselves in altogether a new light. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 11

So Christ expressed His love for His disciples. Their selfish spirit filled Him with sorrow, but He entered into no controversy with them regarding their difficulty. Instead, He gave them an example they would never forget. His love for them, which He did not attempt to beat back, was not easily disturbed or quenched. He knew that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He came from God and was soon to go to God. He had a full consciousness of His divinity; but He had laid aside His royal crown and kingly robes, and had taken the form of a servant. His last act on this evening was to gird Himself as a servant, and perform a servant’s part. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 12

Judas, the betrayer, was among the disciples on this occasion. It was he who had first started the contention because the mother of James and John came to Christ with a request for her sons. Christ’s action in washing the feet of the disciples led Judas to decide not to repent and confess his sins. If Christ could so humble Himself, he thought, He could not be Israel’s King. Judas’ hopes of worldly honor in a temporal kingdom were crushed. He decided that there was nothing to be gained by following Christ. After seeing Christ degrade Himself, as he thought, he determined to disown Him, and confess himself deceived. He was possessed by a demon, and he resolved to betray his Lord. Already he had negotiated to do this, but the business had not been fully accomplished. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 13

Not a few will follow the example set by Judas. They are not placed in the positions of honor they expected. They do not receive the benefits they hoped they would when they accepted unpopular truth. The Lord sends them reproof, and they are provoked, and resolve to be revenged. But, oh, how they hurt their own souls! They say and do all they can to sow the seeds of bitterness. They act the part of Judas, and verily they will receive reward with Judas. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 14

As Judas had placed himself first, Christ was as a servant served him first. John, toward whom Judas had felt so much bitterness, was left till the last. But John did not take this as a rebuke or slight. As the disciples watched Christ’s action they were greatly moved. And when Peter’s turn came, he exclaimed with astonishment, “Lord, dost thou wash my feet?” Christ’s condescension broke his heart, and he was filled with shame to think that one of them was not performing the service. “What I do,” Christ said, “thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” But with great emphasis Peter exclaimed, “Thou shalt never wash my feet.” [Verses 6-8.] 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 15

Peter could not bear to see his Lord, whom he believed to be the Son of God, acting the part of a servant. His whole soul rose up against His humiliation. But for this Christ came into the world. His life had been one of continual service. “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” [Matthew 20:28.] 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 16

Peter did not see that the service which he refused was the type of a higher cleansing. Christ came to wash all who received Him from every stain of sin. To refuse to allow Christ to wash his feet, Peter was refusing the higher cleansing included in the lower; he was really rejecting his Lord. It is not humiliating to the Master to allow Him to work for our purification. The truest humility is to receive with thankful heart any provision made in our behalf, and with earnestness do service for the Master. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 17

Calmly and solemnly Christ said to Peter, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” Peter could not endure the thought of separation from Christ. That would have been death to him. “Not my feet only,” he said, “but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.” This meant more than bodily cleanliness. It meant the cleansing away of the sins of the carnal heart. “Ye are clean (washed from moral pollution),” Christ said, “but not all.” [John 13:8-10.] The feet of Judas had been washed, but his inward parts were full of corruption. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 18

“All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, unto such as keep his covenant.” “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” [Psalm 25:10; 32:1, 2.] O how sorry Christ felt for Judas! He knew he would betray Him. Although his feet had been cleansed by outward washing, his heart was unclean and polluted. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 19

After Christ had washed their feet, and had taken His garments, and was set down again, He said to them, “Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord, and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet; for I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” [John 13:12-17.] 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 20

Christ would have His disciples understand that although He had washed their feet, this did not in the least detract from His dignity. “Ye call me Master and Lord, and ye say well; for so I AM.” [Verse 13.] And being so infinitely superior, He gave grace and significance to the service performed. No one was so exalted as Christ. And yet He stooped to the humblest service. He was the light of the world, and could impart His attributes to His followers. He could dispense His gifts to all. And that He might do this, He made Himself one with every human being, high or low, rich or poor. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 21

Christ referred His disciples to instruction He had given them on a previous occasion. “They were in the way going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went before them; and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And He took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him, saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: and they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him. And the third day he shall rise again.” [Mark 10:32-34.] Here is it first stated that the Gentiles would combine with the Jews to put Christ to death. But the disciples did not understand Christ’s words; for they were in direct contradiction to their preconceived opinions. They clung tenaciously to the hope that Christ would reign as a temporal prince in Jerusalem. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 22

“And James and John, the sons of Zebedee came to him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, the one on thy right hand and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized; but to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.” [Verses 35-40.] 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 23

Jesus made this the occasion of an important lesson. Calling His disciples round Him, He said, “Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so it shall not be among you; but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” [Verses 42-45.] 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 24

Those who cherish a spirit of self-seeking, He said, can find no place in My kingdom. All My servants shall be equal. The only difference will be that those who here show the greatest humility will be the most honored. Those who devote themselves most unselfishly to the service of others, those who seek to do the greatest good, those who reveal most clearly a spirit of self-sacrifice and self-denial, will rise the highest and hold the chiefest place in my kingdom. Even as their Master and Redeemer, whose humiliation and self-abasement led them to lose consciousness of self, they have as their right the place above all others. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 25

Jesus descended step by step to the lowest depths of human woe and misery. The Served of all came to be the Servant of all. He gave His life a ransom for many. And because He ministered to all, He will again be served of all and honored of all. And those who would partake of His divine attributes, and share with Him the joy of seeing souls redeemed, must follow His example of unselfish ministry. 12LtMs, Ms 54, 1897, par. 26