“Jesus the Messiah”: Preschool & Kids Leader Training for Unit 20, Session 3—John Pointed to Jesus
They say that the best baseball umpire in the one who goes unnoticed. I am a terrible umpire.
Years ago, I was part of a baseball ministry called Athletes in Action. We would take college baseball players on mission trips over the summer to play ball and share the gospel. Each summer began with a brief training camp where we would practice baseball and also begin discipling the athletes and train them on evangelism.
At one camp, the teams were scrimmaging and they encouraged me to umpire. I didn’t want to—I think I knew what was coming—but they insisted, so I relented and took my place behind the pitcher.
The first pitch was thrown and popped the catcher’s mitt.
“…Strike…”, was my sheepish call.
The pitcher turned with a sly smile and said, “Dembo (which is what I was called in the baseball world), that was a ball.”
“..Ball?…”, was my sheepish call this time.
At this point, the batter called out, “Hey, Dembo. That was a strike.”
And then I walked off the field.
Umpiring is hard! And I was a bad one because I didn’t know what I was doing and I interfered with the game instead of helping the game move forward.
Perhaps this story might help you as you consider how to approach John the Baptist this week. John’s mission can be thought of sort of like an umpire. He was there not to draw attention to himself, but rather to move the mission of Jesus forward. To point others to Jesus as he stayed in the background. It’s a great picture of humility.
Humility Is Not Thinking Less of Yourself
A common definition of humility goes something like this: Humility is thinking less of yourself.
I’m not a fan of that definition. In fact, I think it is deeply flawed.
The problem with this way of understanding humility is that it ignores, or undermines even, the exceeding value of everyone. Every man, woman, and child is made in the image of God. We should not, therefore, as image bearers think less of ourselves because in doing so we are thinking less of God, the one in whom’s image we are made.
Furthermore, for those of us who have trusted in Christ, we have been forgiven by God and have been credited with Christ’s righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). When God sees us, He sees us as fully forgiven, fully obedient, dearly loved children. To think less of ourselves as believers means we stand in conflict with the way God sees us.
So this definition of humility should, I believe, be rejected.
Humility Is Anchoring Your Identity to the Gospel
But there is a sense, one could argue, that humility is indeed thinking less of yourself—a selfish, prideful way. And that is an important nuance. Humility as a believer should be recognizing and appreciating our great value in God while also recognizing that our worth comes from Him and Him alone.
We are not worthy because of our talents, skills, appearance, intelligence, athleticism, or, thankfully, how well we can call balls and strikes. Our worth rests completely in Christ alone.
A possible starting point for defining humility then, is to anchor our identity to the gospel. Humility is recognizing that a person’s exceeding wealth is to be found in Christ’s work alone.
Humility Is Putting Others First for the Gospel
And this takes us to the second part of humility—what John demonstrated so well. That because we recognize that our worth is to be found in Christ alone, we cannot, nor should not, think more of ourselves than others. Instead, we are to put others first following in the example of Christ.
That last part is why this matters so much. This is why we strive to out serve one another. This is why we defer every opportunity we get. Because in doing so, we paint a beautiful and powerful picture of what Christ has done when He came to earth and laid down His life for us.
This primacy of Jesus is what John shows us and what we want to help our kids show the world.
Jesus was way more than just some prophet or teacher. And to point to Him as anything less than the King of kings, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, is to reject Him and insult Him” — Trip LeeTrip Lee, Rise: Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2015), 47.