“Words of Jesus: Humility,” Ensign, Mar. 2003, 48–51
Many times, the Savior used only a few words or a simple act to emphasize a wondrous eternal principle. For example, after feeding the 5,000, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost” (John 6:12), teaching them and us to avoid wastefulness. And when the Apostles returned from their missions, Jesus took them by ship and “departed … into a desert place” (Matt. 14:13) to rest for a while, reminding us that an occasional break from the demands of our work is necessary for all.
Jesus’ teachings on the subject of humility are similarly concise and powerful. The four Gospels, written with rare clarity and beauty, take us back to those days when the Son of God walked among men. His magnificent life showed a total and absolute absence of pride, arrogance, and vanity. Likewise, His words reflect a constant recognition of His dependence on the Father.
Humility is one of the dominant principles the Lord taught in the Beatitudes. To His disciples gathered at the Sermon on the Mount and later to the Nephites on the American continent, He said:
“Blessed are they who … come down into the depths of humility and [are] baptized. …
“Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. …
“And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. …
“And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (3 Ne. 12:2–3, 5, 9; see also Joseph Smith Translation, Matt. 5:4–5, 7, 11).
When His disciples asked Him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus called a little child to come to Him and chided them, saying: “Whosoever … shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:1, 4).
“For he that is least among you all, the same shall be great” (Luke 9:48).
Jesus always pointed out that His Father was the source of His power and knowledge. At the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus went into the temple and taught: “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. … He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him” (John 7:16, 18).
Later Jesus testified: “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things … for I do always those things that please him. … And I seek not mine own glory” (John 8:28–29, 50; see also John 12:49–50).
The Master Teacher frequently warned against pride. During dinner at the home of one of the chief Pharisees, Jesus discerned how those seated at the table thought themselves better than one another (see Joseph Smith Translation, Luke 14:7). He taught them a parable and then said, “Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 14:11; see also Luke 18:14).
When James and John’s mother asked Jesus to give her sons the privilege of sitting on His right and left in the day of His glory, Jesus explained that this was a privilege He was not authorized to give. And noting contention among His disciples, He said, “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister” (Matt. 20:27–28; see also Matt. 23:11–12; Luke 22:24–27).
Jesus taught His disciples of divine humility during their final moments together as they walked to the Mount of Olives just before His arrest and Crucifixion: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. … He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:1, 5).
A short while later, in His great Intercessory Prayer, He stated:
“Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: …
“I have glorified thee on the earth. …
“And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them [His disciples]; that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:1, 4, 22).
From the moment of His birth, the Savior taught humility through His actions. The great Creator of all things (see John 1:3) condescended to be born into the humblest of circumstances. He entered mortality in a shelter for animals and was laid in a manger, a crib that was also used for the feeding of animals. His first visitors were humble shepherds (see Luke 2:7–20).
As Jesus began to perform miracles in Galilee, His fame spread throughout the region. Many people flocked to Him, some desiring to be healed, while others were simply curious. To the sick and afflicted He often said, “Thy faith hath made thee whole,” emphasizing the role of the healed, rather than that of the Healer, in the miracle of healing.1 And when a leper came, saying, “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (Mark 1:40), Jesus healed him, saying, “See thou say nothing to any man” (Mark 1:44). Jesus repeated this instruction after many of His miracles, reflecting a deeply held desire that His miracles be done and received in humility and primarily in private.2
Following His miraculous feeding of the 5,000, some among the multitude wanted to make Him their king. Such popularity and power would have severely tempted or corrupted most people. But Jesus ignored the intoxicating influence of the praise of the world, departing into a mountain to be alone (see John 6:15). On another occasion of grand public acclamation, Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem. The crowds shouted words of praise, spreading before Him their cloaks and tree branches (see Matt. 21:8–9). However, Jesus chose on this occasion to ride upon a donkey, a recognized Messianic symbol of humility (see Zech. 9:9).
Service is always an opportunity to cultivate humility. Jesus demonstrated this when He knelt and washed the feet of the Apostles. “Know ye what I have done?” He asked them. “I have given you an example, that … the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him” (John 13:12, 15–16).
Finally, in His hours of greatest suffering, Jesus subjected Himself to the Father. And in perhaps His greatest act of humility, He allowed Himself to be hung upon the cross. His last words in mortality typify His teachings on humility. After Jesus uttered the words “It is finished” (John 19:30), He also declared that His Father’s will had been done (see Joseph Smith Translation, Matt. 27:54). He then bowed His head and gave up the ghost.
The Lord Jesus Christ, our perfect Master, has taught us the meaning of humility through word and example. True and faithful Christians desire that their words and deeds reflect an inner sense of meekness, contriteness, and submissiveness to divine will.
On 2 November 1995, after a year of faithful preparation, Antonio and Roseli Berrocal of the Franca stake in São Paulo, Brazil, traveled with their five children to be sealed in the São Paulo Brazil Temple. On the way a tragic and fatal accident took the life of Sister Berrocal and all the children. On the 22nd of that same month, Brother Antonio entered the temple alone to be sealed to his beloved family. For me, my interview with him was a great and unforgettable lesson in humility. In moving words he expressed his gratitude to Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, for the comfort he had felt in his moments of sadness and pain. He was grateful for the sacred ordinances that would be performed. Brother Antonio is a man who is meek and lowly in heart.
Also amazing to me is the humble service of senior brothers and sisters and young missionaries throughout the world. Their number is growing each day. They sacrifice, work hard, save money to pay for their own missions, and dedicate their lives to God with pure hearts and humble spirits. I am also inspired by the humble, faithful Saints who, every month, give to their bishops tithes and fast offerings gained by their honest and hard work.
New Testament disciples testified of the Savior’s extraordinary life and of His words and example of humility. Modern prophets and apostles have testified that “His life … is central to all human history. … God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.”3
Jesus, once of humble birth,
Now in glory comes to earth. …
Once he groaned in blood and tears;
Now in glory he appears.
Once rejected by his own,
Now their King he shall be known.4
He lives. He has been and will always be the greatest landmark of humility along our journey to follow His footsteps.