As we said yesterday, God is Master. The Earth is His and everything in it belong to Him, and He has the power to do whatever He wants with it.
So what did He do with that power?
He put it aside, and came to Earth as a humble, ordinary man. He didn’t live as one of us, He was one of us. In Philippians 2, Paul points out that Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.”
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” – Matthew 20:28a.
God is Servant.
And serve He did.
How many times in the Gospel do we hear about Jesus setting aside His own agenda for the day to help people who came to Him? He never seemed to get exasperated with all the interruptions He faced, and when He tried to get some privacy for prayer and a crowd showed up, He didn’t send them away, He served them.
He also knew how to be like Scotty from Star Trek.
In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Relics, Scotty provides this sage advice to fellow Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge, “Starship captains are like children. They want everything right now and they want it their way. The secret is to give them what they need, not what they want.”
During His earthly ministry, Jesus also wasn’t shy about giving people what they actually needed, rather than what they thought they needed. For example, in Mark 2:1-12, a paralytic man is lowered through a hole in the roof of a house so he can be brought to Jesus for healing. Jesus sees their faith and decides to help him.
“Your sins are forgiven,” He says.
After a while, He also heals the paralytic’s injuries, but Jesus confronted the man’s most important problem first. He does the same with us, by the way – making our actual needs His priority long before addressing what we think we want.
But probably the most striking example of Jesus’ servanthood (prior to the Cross, that is) came on the very first Maundy Thursday, when the Son of God washed the feet of His disciples.
Nowadays, our feet get a little manky in our sweatsocks and sneakers, but in First Century Palestine, feet were absolutely grimy. Roads were unpaved, sanitation was non-existent and everyone wore sandals, if anything. So foot-washing was a very dirty job.
And since the society of that place and era functioned under an overt caste system (unlike our more covert caste system of today), the disciples probably thought washing each other’s feet was far beneath them – let alone their Master! It would never have occurred to them to wash anyone else’s feet for them, even though local custom strongly suggested that this be done before the Passover meal.
Therefore, they were scandalized when Jesus grabbed a towel and a bowl and got His hands dirty with their feet filth.
“No,” says Peter, saying what everyone else was probably thinking. “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus’ response is clear and a little alarming, frankly: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Peter, to his credit, does a very quick 180: “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
(Have I mentioned that my nickname in high school was Pete? Not a coincidence.)
Not all denominations make a big deal out of Maundy Thursday, but I’m thankful that I stumbled into one that does. Anglican churches often have a foot-washing service on the evening before Good Friday (although mine is having a Seder Supper this year, focusing more on the Passover meal than the foot-washing). We get down on our knees and scrub each other’s tootsies, to remind us what servanthood looked like to Christ.
Now, I say ‘we’ but I’ve never actually participated in the foot-washing. I’ve attended Maundy Thursday services for each of the past five years, but I’ve been too busy providing background music to wash or be washed. In theory, that’s because music is my version of servanthood. But am I hiding behind my guitar so I won’t have to get involved in a kind of service that’s kinda gross and quite intimate and personal?
Possible. And this might be something I need to address.
After all, that Philippians verse I referred to above doesn’t only call us to receive the service Jesus provides, but to go and do likewise:
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage. Rather, he made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” – Philippians 2:5-7
Peace be with you.