From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Twenty-Four, Day Three
Like most of us, Jesus' disciples were sometimes caught up with a sense of their own self-importance, at times even arguing with each other about which of them was greatest. Jesus startled them by reversing the natural order in which it is the weak who serve the strong. He assured them, instead, that he came not in order to control and dominate but in order to serve.
Though prophets, judges, and kings were called servants of God in the Bible, Jesus is the greatest of all God's servants, the Man of Sorrows who laid down his life in obedience to his Father. He is the Servant who through his suffering has saved us. When you pray to Jesus as Servant or as the Man of Sorrows, you are praying to the Lord who has loved you in the most passionate way possible, allowing himself to be nailed to a cross in order that you might have life and have it to the full.
He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. Isaiah 53:3, NLT
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. Matthew 20:28
Praying the Name
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. . . . During supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. John 13:1 - 5, NRSV
Reflect On: John 13:1 - 5.
Praise God: For loving us to the end through his Son, Jesus Christ.
Offer Thanks: Because Jesus has cleansed you from the defiling power of sin.
Confess: Your unworthiness.
Ask God: To help you receive the gift of salvation with gladness.
Imagine that you are living in first-century Palestine. Though you are in the prime of life, you know that you will die within the next twentyfour hours. In fact, you have known this for some time. Despite your efforts to prepare your friends, they seem thickheaded, unable to grasp the situation. You know that your death will shatter them. They will flee from shadows that will overtake you, terrified lest they also be overtaken. In the hours and days that follow, each will be tempted to despair, thinking that your promises were nothing more than wellintentioned dreams.
Now, before it happens, you long to comfort them, assuring them that everything will be all right, but they aren't listening. Instead they are distracted by trivialities, arguing which of them is greatest. And they are doing this in the middle of the Passover feast, the last meal you will share with them prior to your death.
Something else is in your mind too, a kind of confidence that seems strange in light of your knowledge of coming events. You know both who you are and where you are going. You also know you are precisely where you should be in God's timetable. You are determined to move forward, knowing that nothing can happen without your consent. But before you walk headlong into darkness, you decide to make one more attempt to communicate with your slow-witted disciples. You choose to do this not with words they are too deaf to hear but by acting out a parable. So you get up from the table and remove your outer clothing. Wrapping a towel around your waist, you pour water into a basin. Then you stoop down and start wiping the grime from your friends' feet. It's what a slave would do. By now the bickering has stopped. Each man looks at you with bewildered eyes. You are certain that each of your friends will remember this moment for the rest of their lives.
John's Gospel tells us not only that Jesus loved his disciples but that he loved them to the end. What he did for them the night before his death illustrates the extent of his love. But the meaning of that actedout parable eluded them at first. Later, in excited conversations, they would have begun to understand what Jesus was trying to tell them.
The night before he died, Jesus removed his outer garments. Wasn't he showing them a picture of what was about to happen, when the next day he would be stripped of his clothing before being nailed to a cross? And what about the water he had poured into the basin in order to cleanse them? Hadn't he also poured out his blood for them on the cross? Surely Jesus had acted the part of a slave by washing their feet. Wasn't he also executed as a slave? Crucifixion, they knew, was a punishment so cruel it was reserved for subjugated peoples and slaves. In the midst of his disciples' reflections, one of them would have recalled Jesus' words shortly before the Passover feast: "I lay down my life for the sheep. . . . No one takes it from me but I lay it down of my own accord" (John 10:15, 18).
Jesus gave his life — not grudgingly, but gladly. He stripped himself of power so that a deeper power could be at work reversing the deadly effects of our sin. Today, when you think of Jesus as the Suffering Servant, think not so much of what you have done to cause his suffering but of what he has done to cause you joy. Dwell not on your own unworthiness but on his worthiness. Think about his willing sacrifice, his determination, and his love. Just as Jesus loved his disciples to the end, he will love you to the end. Praise him for saving you and changing you through his great, long-suffering love.
For more from Ann Spangler, visit her blogspot on Christianity.com. Be sure to check out Ann's newest book, Praying the Attributes of God: A Daily Guide to Experiencing His Greatness.