Thursday, April 5, 2012

Humbled By Humility

"...before honour is humility." - Pr. 15:33b, NKJV

   I've just settled down for the evening with my ESV study Bible and some devotional books as I try to keep tracking and immersing myself in the events of Holy Week. Yesterday's readings in the Gospels gave me much to contemplate regarding God's meticulous planning and sovereignty over the events of history, as I thought about the gathering of actors and the setting of the stage for the events leading up to Christ's passion [1]. 

   According to the timeline of the events that have been put together of Christ's final week [2], people in Jerusalem (including Jesus' disciples) have been busy during the day making preparations for the Passover, which begins at sunset. The temple has been extremely busy during the day as lamb after lamb has been sacrificed - some historical estimates place the number around a quarter of a million animals sacrificed for Passover during Christ's time. The disciples have roasted the lamb, and prepared various side dishes for the meal (including bread). They have also prepared the room for celebrating this important meal in their yearly calendar. All Israel is gathering to remember the night of God's deliverance of their ancestors from the land of Egypt thousands of years ago, with the slaying of Egypt's firstborn and his "passing over" of their houses that had been marked and sprinkled with the blood of slain lambs.

Bread. Wine. Body. Blood.
   It is now evening, and Christ has begun the Passover meal with His disciples. During the meal, He has taken bread, broken it and instituted the future memorial of His body, with the words, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." Passing the cup of wine, He has pronounced its significance: "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood" [3]. It is also during the meal that He has identified Judas as his betrayer, though none of the others understand. The Passover meal is almost over; the food is almost over, the dishes almost empty. And now, the incarnate Word of God, in whom, through whom and for whom all things exist, once again shows Himself to be a Man like no other:

"Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside His outer garments and, and taking a towel, tied it around His waist. Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around His waist...When He had washed their feet and put on His outer garments and resumed His place, He said to them, 'Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right for so I am . If then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also out to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly I say to you, a servant is not greater than His master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent Him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." - John 13:3-5, 12-17, ESV

   I can only imagine the shock on the disciples' faces; washing people's feet was considered to be a task reserved for non-Jewish slaves. In that time and culture where people walked long distances on dusty roads What a Man, and yet God! What a Servant, and yet the King of kings! There is no one else like the Lord of glory. Human imagination cannot concoct such a God, who works miracles beyond comprehension, and then stoops to wash the dirty feet of His followers! This righteous and holy God, who walked the dusty roads of Palestine for thirty three years, assumed the posture of a servant and washed the dust that He Himself had created off the feet of His creation. In the gesture of utmost love for His enemies, He even washed the feet of the one who had already agreed to betray Him.

   Attempting to follow in Christ's footsteps, I once tenderly washed someone's feet and dried them with a towel, in an act of love and servanthood. It was an intensely humbling lesson and experience; it made me feel very small and insignificant, a nobody washing the feet of a somebody. I understood through that one small act the attitude and posture that my heart should adopt as a follow and servant of my Lord and Master, and have tried to keep that in mind ever since. The Apostle Paul, thinking about the servant heart and mind of Christ, wrote the following words to the Philippian church:

"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in your which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a slave, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross." - Philippians 2:3-8, NKJV

   That's the God my heart follows and obeys; Christ is the Man who leads from the front by example, not from a safe place at the rear. That's the kind of man I want to be, because I'm no greater than my Master. He humbled himself to obedience and death; so must I. I'm going to think about this as I keep pace with the events of the Passion tonight. Jesus and His disciples have left for the Garden of Gethsemane. The pace of the story is ramping up to its inevitable conclusion in another fifteen hours. Time for me to follow them. I have to run. See you in the next post. Until then, here's a great music video featuring the scenes of The Last Supper enacted in "The Passion of The Christ", featuring the song "Remembrance" by Matt Maher:

- The Wisdom Seeker
[1] The Approaching Cross
[2] "Harmony of The Events of Holy Week", ESV Study Bible, pg. 1866
[3] Luke 22:19-20, ESV