• Richard Butler

Humility, not hubris

One of the themes of Holy Week is the fickleness of the people – the shift from the “Hosannah”s of Palm Sunday to the “crucify him” of today. Another is the moral cowardice of the politician Pilate, who believes Jesus innocent of the charges but who still condemns him to death to win the approval of the crowd.


But today I want to look, not at the extras or at the supporting cast, but at Jesus.


One of the faces of Jesus we’ve seen in the past is the man who drives the money changers from the Temple – forceful and direct in protecting the sanctity of God’s house.


And we remember from a few months back the stern Jesus rebuking Peter for tempting him to turn away from his destiny.


More recently we’ve seen another face - the friend of Lazarus, Mary and Martha – Jesus moved to tears when he sees and feels the distress caused by Lazarus’ death.


But as we walk through Holy Week with Jesus, we see a different face.


On Maundy Thursday we see Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. The servant. The Jesus whose concern throughout has been for the marginalised has accepted the position of the marginalised – humility and not hubris.


And we will soon meet the fearful but obedient Jesus on Gethsemane – asking his father to take the cup from him but willing to drink it if his father requires. Submission to God and humility.


And in today’s passage we see a Jesus who is reconciled to what is to happen to him. Stephen, when faced with his own martyrdom, delivers a lengthy sermon summarising OT history at this point. Many a fictional hero would make a stirring speech at this point, but Jesus does not. In the 25 verses read this morning, Jesus says just three words. In answer to Pilate’s ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Jesus answers ‘You say so.’ Jesus has no need to justify himself – his years of ministry have spoken volumes and history will record the magnitude of the moment. But by Jesus …. no more need be said. Humility, not hubris.


Before the end Jesus will wrestle with himself at Gethsemane. But he will no longer wrestle with the authorities or his persecutors. The climax of the story grows close. Jesus walks with humility towards the cross. And in Holy Week we seek to walk with him.


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