There’s this surprising passage in John 19. But if you’ve followed the Christ story up until this point it’s not really surprising at all.
After all, this is the same Jesus who just a few chapters beforehand had taken it upon himself to wash the feet of his disciples. Imagine — God in flesh; the very one who flung the stars into space, who formed our planet and breathed the breath of life into mankind living and walking among us. The same hands that healed the blind, calmed the storm, raised the dead . . . washing feet.
The Creator serving the creation.
And then this teaching in John 13:14-15 — “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
Simply put: if the God of the universe is willing to wash the feet of his servants, shouldn’t we do the same?
Then we find Jesus in John 19, and this part of the story is really good. Jesus Christ, the suffering servant, has been beaten so severely that he is barely alive. He’s hanging on a cross naked and shamed with a sarcastic sign above his head calling him the “King of the Jews” and mocking his entire life’s work. His closest followers have abandoned him, his miracles have been forgotten, and many of the people who had been crying out “Hosanna” on Monday had changed their chant to “crucify him” by Friday. He is the epitome of a misunderstood, wrongfully accused, and isolated leader.
Pastor, youth minister, worship leader: I don’t know what ways you’ll be mistreated at some point in your ministries, but I feel pretty certain about this — you’ll never find yourself in a more hopeless situation than this.
Our human reaction to bumpy stretches of road in our life is fairly predictable. We feel sorry for ourselves, we begin to focus inwardly, and we stop looking out for others as we brace ourselves for the bumpy ride and hope it will end soon.
And this is why John 19 is incredible. While hanging on the cross, struggling for breath, Jesus sees his mother and the disciple John standing nearby. He turns to Mary and says, “Woman, here is your son.” To John he says, “Here is your mother.”
We’re told that John looked after Mary from that day forward.
Hanging on a cross, dying in agony, the weight of the world on his shoulders, Jesus looked out for someone else. Protected his mother. He served someone.
Christian leaders — there will be times over the course of your ministry when you are tempted to turn inward and feel sorry for yourself. I’ve been in ministry long enough to have experienced and even fallen to that urge on more than one occasion.
But here is the honest truth: it’s not about you. You don’t have to rise up in an angry fit of righteous indignation because it’s not about you. You don’t have to assert your leadership credentials in the fitful hope of forcing someone’s respect because it’s not about you.
What you must do is follow the Suffering Servant, give your life to your people, and love them regardless of circumstances. Sometimes this will mean that you can’t stay. Sometimes it will mean that you’ll lose “power”. Sometimes it will even be perceived as weak.
But when forced to choose between clinging to position / setting the record straight / feeling sorry for ourselves or loving others with the very heart of God, may we follow our Suffering Servant and count our earthly losses as Kingdom gains.
photo credit: Matthew Baker