Humility

Jesus said, “One of you will betray me.” (His disciples asked) “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “The one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” When he had dipped the piece (Jesus said) “One of you will betray me.” (His disciples asked) “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “The one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” When he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After receiving the piece of bread, (Judas) immediately went out. And it was night (John 13.21b, 25b-26, 30)

The Last Supper (La ultima Cena), Benjamin West, 1786

Profess often your sins to God…not considering them as cast across the long course of life, but joined in one continued confession.
From Holy Living (IV. Humility, To Increase Humility, 1), 1650, Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667)

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Judas took bread from Your hand, O Lord,
then (and what, I oft wonder, did he think, feel about this, Your merciful-kindness?)
swiftly went out into the darkness;
the night,
a mantle covering his disloyalty
(but ne’er to conceal from Your knowing his heart’s deceit)
from human sight.

How oft, beyond counting, O Lord,
have I received
from the hand of Your saving-heart
the bread of Your Self-giving
only to betray You by living not by Your grace,
but only by my selfish choice?

By mine own question,
my self-inquisition, O Lord,
I ne’er am or can be done with Donne;
his words sure-giving voice to my heart’s incessant sorrowing:

Wilt Thou forgive that sin, where I begun,
Which is my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive those sins through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

 

Endnote: John Donne (1573-1631), English writer and metaphysical poet, Anglican cleric and renown preacher. A Hymn to God the Father, verse 1 (1623); my emphasis

Illustration: The Last Supper (La ultima Cena), Benjamin West, 1786

4 thoughts on “Humility

  1. Paul,
    I like to think about Jesus being fully human and what that means. It must mean that even as he identified Judas as a traitor, he must have understood what it felt like to BE Judas and to have reached a point where Judas took the decision to act as he did, both why he did it and then the unbearable remorse that must have come as a result, which resulted in Judas’ inability to go on living. (Can you imagine what he must have felt like walking out of that room that night???) Likewise, when any of us fail, as we must being human, I think Jesus must understand exactly how we feel, knowing why we are weak, or stubborn, or self-centered, or wilful, what brought us to those incapacities and weaknesses and made us susceptible to them, and how it feels to know we are failing and have failed at living up to all we are asked to be and do, plus the guilt and remorse we carry. I know Jesus must have experienced all of this.

    I know there is an issue about whether or not Jesus was capable of sinning, and I know many Christians believe he was not. I have a very hard time believing that, because otherwise I don’t understand how he was human. Failure is part of being human, a large part, I’m convinced. For me an important part of asking forgiveness is to understand that I am known, that my weaknesses are known, that even if I don’t understand why I did whatever it is I need to be forgiven for, there is a good chance that Jesus would know, there is a good chance that Jesus experienced it also, knew what it was to need someone’s understanding and forgiveness, to be held accountable for it but also to be able to say that I am sorry for it and sincerely desire to be set free from my own judgment of myself, as well as of God’s judgment, to be changed, to be renewed, to have hope that next time I am capable of doing better.

    I guess what I’m talking about is the mercy that comes only when you can recognize and empathize with brokenness in someone else because you have experienced it in yourself. We can safely ask for mercy for our own brokenness, because we know that God’s mercy came about by virtue of Jesus having become and having lived as a fully functioning human being. I find such comfort in that thought.

    Love,

    Karen

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Karen, as always, you write with such clarity and passion. Thank you, again, as always, for sharing your thoughts, aye, your very self.

    As for whether Jesus was capable of sinning (however “sinning” is defined; for me, I usually think in general terms of my human self-interest, which, when unenlightened, serves only my interests and, therefore, defies and denies the God who created me to be in loving relation with all), I have to believe that he, as fully human, was able to sin. As to whether Jesus sinned, I am agnostic on that matter. For, I believe, if Jesus was and is God, the God who creates, redeems, and sanctifies, then I believe that Jesus was and is capable and willing to empathize with us whether or not he committed – whether by action or omission – the sins we bear heavily on our hearts. (I think of this in much the same way that I can and have empathized with others in their sorrows when that for which they have sorrowed was not a part of my life’s experience.)

    Now, another thought occurs…actually three…

    When Judas departed into the night to carry out his deed of betrayal AND, according to the text, Jesus was aware of the treachery that was afoot, I find it amazing that Jesus, under the heading of self-preservation (which would have been my concern), didn’t stop him. Hence, I interpret Jesus’ non-action as an acceptance of what Judas was to do and, thus, his (Jesus’) fate.

    The second thought… I oft have perceived Jesus’ encounters with the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7) and the parallel story of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15) as evidences that Jesus could be taught; that is, that he was educable; that is, that he didn’t know all things (what a thought!). For, in each instance, the woman exhibits a faith in God’s healing power that transcends boundaries of gender and race and calls for Jesus to act.

    The third thought… Coming back ’round to the concept of Jesus sinning, thus, able to understand and to empathize with us. There is an element of my thinking that falls in the realm of process theology, which asserts, in part, that God is in the process of being and becoming along with the creation and along with us. In this, yes, I can countenance Jesus sinning, and, thus, experientially, living all of our life so, in a word, to know how we feel.

    Again, my dear sister, loving you and praying you well as we continue this pilgrimage of faith we call life,
    Paul

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Paul,

    I’ve been thinking about your response above all day. The clearest conclusion I reached was that I think my favorite thing in all the world is the pairing of a curious, active, engaged mind with a warm and loving heart, and you, my friend, are a glowing exemplar of that pairing. As to your comments about Jesus and sinning, you’re right; that whole subject gets very deep very fast, doesn’t it? I reached a conclusion years ago when I was still a church-goer and member. There was an awful lot I didn’t know about who and what Jesus was. I know he’s referred to in scripture and being “the only begotten son of God.” I have never been able to figure out what that means in any way that makes sense to me, but I do know that of all the things he was, he was the only human being I know about who fully understood all the implications of what it means to be a “child of God.” If we all understood that we all are children of God in the same way Jesus understood it, we would live in a very, very different world.

    Your three thoughts:

    1) I absolutely agree with you, and when I was a teenager I promised myself that someday I was going to sit down and write a play about Judas, because I can’t get over the feeling that lurks somewhere deep inside me that somehow he got a raw deal. I think he is fascinating and tragic and inscrutable, and I’d love to know the REAL story! I haven’t ever done that, but I still may someday.

    2) All I have to say to that is “Amen, brother!” And I love those stories for that very reason.

    3) Yes, yes, yes. One of my strongest convictions is that Creation is an ongoing, ever-evolving process, that nothing is static; all is changing, including our universe, our planet, our species, and most particularly God is evolving. (My earliest intimation of this realization was the story of the rainbow and Genesis 8: 20-22 and Genesis 9: 11-17.) God learns; God changes because of God’s interactions with human beings. And so, yes, I can readily accept that Jesus could take on human “sin” in more than simply metaphorical ways in order to establish a bond and understanding with humankind.
    Someday we’ll have to get into what sin is. I know myself as “sinful,” even though I vigorously object to how much of the world defines “sin” in these times.

    Thank you, Paul, for your thoughtful response to my comment. So glad to have these interactions with your mind and your heart. I thank God for your being present in my world.

    Much love,

    Karen

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “…I think my favorite thing in all the world is the pairing of a curious, active, engaged mind with a warm and loving heart…” My dear Karen, that you consider me an exemplar of this pairing warms and gladdens my heart! Thank you.

    Thank you, too, and always for your passionate and in-depth comments.

    Foremost, surely I agree with you that Jesus is my icon, my incarnation of one who fully understood and lived the implications of what it means…what it is to be a child of God. For this very reason, I follow him.

    As for sin, yes, yes, I’d love to engage in deeper conversation about the nature of sin. Again, as I wrote earlier, for me, it is rooted in my human (and, thus, inherent) self-interest, which manifests itself in my living apart from God’s will. At best, I think, when my self-interest is enlightened, I am able to see in my relations with others the mutual benefit of my thinking and feeling, intending and acting (as oppose to functioning primarily [purely?] for my own purposes).

    Now, as for our friend Judas (and, yes, I consider Judas Iscariot a friend and, thus, not one to vilify out of hand [as if I have not betrayed Jesus!]), I once preached a Palm Sunday sermon where I considered the varied sorts of kisses that Judas may have planted on Jesus’ cheek at that moment of active betrayal in the garden. Was it a tender (disappointed in Jesus) kiss? A brutal (angry at Jesus) kiss? And so on… I encourage you to write about our friend, for, and you must know, I’d love to read what (anything!) you write!

    Love you,
    Paul

    Like

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