“Above all, he is unselfish. Perhaps nothing strikes us more than this. Although he clearly believed himself to be divine, he did not put on airs or stand on his dignity. He was never pompous. There was no touch of self-importance in Jesus. He was humble.
It is this paradox that is so amazing, this combination of the self-centeredness of his teaching and the unself-centeredness of his behavior. In thought he put himself first, in deed last. He exhibited both the greatest self-esteem and the greatest self-sacrifice. He knew himself to be the Lord of all, but he became their servant. He said that he would one day come to judge the world, but he washed the feet of his friends.”
~John Stott, Basic Christianity
Nothing struck me quite so strongly as I read Stott’s Basic Christianity as the bolded sentence above. As someone who has believed since she was a young child, I have never really considered the “self-centeredness” of Jesus’ teaching. Of course he was self-centered – he’s God. He ought to be talking about himself. But if he weren’t God, were simply styling himself as God, he would be quite pompous.
Yet his actions aren’t pompous at all. He cares for the poor and needy, embraces outcasts, visits sinners in their homes. He served.
“…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
~Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)
This is the paradox of our faith – the God who is so High stooped down so low. He is indeed exactly what every person needs and does not shy away from proclaiming it: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” “I am the bread of life.” “I am the living water.” “I am the Good Shepherd.” “I am…” “I am…” “I am…” But, despite being God’s gift to man, he did not act as though he were.