Serve and be Served

 

Foot Washing

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 taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”  Jesus answered him, “What I am doingyou do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”  Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”  Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”  Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.”  For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

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 I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought 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 13:3-16 ESV

The day before the day of his death, Jesus ate supper with his friends.  After supper he served by taking the lowest possible place – someone who washed their feet.  People wore sandals back then and streets were dirty – feet really needed washing!  This was one of the Lord’s last acts before the worst day of his life.  What should we see in it?

1)  We need to serve.  We need to see our example.  For I have given you an example…blessed are you if you do…  Jesus took the lowest place and so should we.  He is our master and we must be like him.  That means serving others with some of the most low-down and even dirty help that they need.  Those who follow Jesus are to be servants to one another and to the world. We are to alleviate pain, give help, and care in whatever ways we’ve been given.  We are to do.  We are to serve.  But that is not all…

2)  We need to be served.  Jesus serves his friends and disciples to show them a greater principle – The Son of Man cam to serve.  While he washes their feet, which would be very immediately helpful, there is something greater afoot.  If I do not wash you, you have no share in me…  Jesus came to do something far more than we could ever imitate – He came to live and die in our place.  That is the Gospel, that His life and death stand as our righteousness and atonement.  Belief in his that washes away all our sins.  That is not something we could do on our own.  We need to be served.

 

So as we remember the Story of this great week, remember both to serve in the ways we can.  And to be served in what we cannot do for ourselves.  That is the Good News.

 

 

Grand Welcome to Utter Rejection

 

"Entry of Christ into Jerusalem"  Anthony van Dyck, 1617

“Entry of Christ into Jerusalem” Anthony van Dyck, 1617

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.  So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”   And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
    sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, thenthey remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.  The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness.  The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.  So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”  John 12:12-19 ESV

If the Gospel story would have ended here, it would have been a happy success.  The King – Jesus – has come to the Royal City – Jerusalem – and the crowds receive him with joy.  He has fulfilled Zechariah’s 600 year-old prophecy and has it made in the shade.  Right?  Well, in a few short days his grand entrance turns to painful and humiliating rejection.  The Messiah who entered the city is cast out of it.  It is amazing to consider how Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem differs from his exit.  How could it go from such a grand welcome to utter rejection?

There are two reflections we can have as to such a difference in such a short time:

1)  The first is that even though Jesus was the promised Messiah, even though he was the King of Israel (and soon the entire world), even though he was completing his mission by arriving in style – there was something else left to be done.  Jesus is King but he does more than just rule.  He will rule but he also atones.  He rules his people (and the entire world) but also makes atonement for his people.  Because of sins, all people deserve rejection, wrath, and death from God.  Because of God’s great love, His great plan was for Jesus to bear that for his people.  That’s why the story doesn’t end at John 12:19 with Jesus a big winner.  He has to become a loser first.  His mission is not yet complete.

2)  The second is that it is amazing that the same people who cheer his arrival so quickly become those who cry for his torture and death.  In a few short days!  I would never have done that to Jesus.  People like us could never reject him.  We’re too smart for that.  Those fickle crowds are nothing like you and me.  Right?  The rejection of Jesus is often misconstrued as being anti-semitic for it shows the Jews rejecting Christ.  This is a tragic mistake.  We’re supposed to see ourselves in that Jerusalem mob – the same folks who wanted him at first, turn on him when he does not fit their mold.  We see that they – and we – are the very people Jesus has come to complete his mission for.  We are the ones needing not just good guidance from a perfect ruler, but sacrificial atonement for our rejection of God’s plans and our many sins.

This Sunday is the traditional day when we remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem – the height of his popularity.  And we remember that his mission did not end there.  We can reflect on the end of his great path of salvation for us; and on how much we need it.

 

Why Does God Love Us? Mmmm… Because

Do you ever wonder what you have done to deserve God’s love?  Do you ever wonder what reason He would give for why He has loved us as His people?  Is it because we’re better than anybody else?  Is it because of something we’ve accomplished or merited?  These are big questions and they are not new.  Turns out God’s People have had them for a long time.  And it turns out that God has given an answer.  Well…  kind of.

At the end of the Exodus – God’s leading out of His People from Egypt – God reveals to His Chosen People why He has loved them.  The Jews could have been tempted to pride in that they were the People God had chosen and set His love upon.  They could have looked at themselves for a reason for God’s special saving love.  But in this remarkable statement by Moses – inspired by the Spirit – God reveals the true reason.   Or non-reason.

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.  It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  Deut 7:6-8 ESV 

When we read this closely we see that God has chosen His People out of love.  Nor for any particular reason such as they being already great or numerous.  In fact, the Jews were not yet so special.  They were not a huge nation.  They had not yet built a great civilization.  The great storyline of the Bible – New and Old Testaments – is that God has chosen and worked to save a People for Himself.  So what is spoken in general here to Israel matters for us as well.  God had chosen Israel (and us as the grafted in) and loved them/us with a saving love.  Why?  Look in the text and see (I emboldened it for you).  God loved us because He loved us.  Huh?

God's love is like a round about.  He loves His people because He loves them.

God’s love is like a round about. He loves His people because He loves them.

I’m a pretty logical guy (Logic is an attribute of God by the way!) and I can see when I’m being given a non-answer.  God loves His people because He loves them.  That’s a bit circuitous.  But it turns out that it makes sense in light of God’s magnificent, mysterious grace.  It is not because we are anything, or have done anything, that we earn, merit, deserve His saving love.  It is because He has loved us that He loves us.  Why???  We may ask.  Just because, He answers.

It is a great mystery why some come to believe in God and join His people.  It is not for us to dwell upon the whys but to share the Good news of what He has done to save sinners.  And when we find ourselves believing members of God’s great family, we must never be given to pride.  We’re not better than anyone.  Or more deserving, clever, fortunate, or open-minded.  It is because of His mysterious and wonderful love.  He loves us because He loves us.

Not mechanical

Nothing mechanical about his guy's communion with God.

Nothing mechanical about his guy’s communion with God.

“The Christian life, true spirituality, can never have a mechanical solution. The real solution is being cast up into moment-by-moment communion, personal communion, with God himself, and letting Christ’s truth flow through me through the agency of the Holy Spirit.” Francis Schaeffer

 

via Ray Ortlund

It’s April 3rd! Did Jesus die on this day?

April 3rd this year in my city is not the greatest day we’ve seen.  It’s snowing!  It’s cold!  And it feels like just another day in the long slow grind of life after a long hard winter.  But consider for a moment, there may be something more to April 3rd.

Nobody knows exactly when Jesus died – it is not a salvation issue.  But these guys make a fairly decent case that it could have been on April 3rd.


http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/04/april-3-ad-33

Whether Jesus did or not die on April 3rd may not ultimately matter but anything – anything! – that causes us to ponder his death is a great thing! So maybe…

 

 

Why are all my streams in Him?

Babylon, the city of captivity.

Babylon, the city of captivity.

1  On the holy mount stands the city he founded;
2  the Lord loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
3  Glorious things of you are spoken,
O city of God. Selah

4  Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush —
“This one was born there,” they say.

5  And of Zion it shall be said,
“This one and that one were born in her”;
for the Most High himself will establish her.
6  The Lord records as he registers the peoples,
“This one was born there.” Selah

7  Singers and dancers alike say,
“All my springs are in you.”  Psalm 87 ESV

All my springs are in you.  That’s a go-to verse for worship leaders and creative types everywhere.  And so it should be.  It means that all our expression of praise comes from God Himself.  He is the inspirer, the fountainhead, the source.  But why does our praise come forth?

Psalm 87 tells us.  It is because we are God’s people in the midst of of a mixed up world.  There is a people that God Himself has made; a city He founded (vs 1 ).  This city of God is His called out people, that He loves (vs 2) and makes glorious (vs 3).  They live in a mixed up world, in the midst of those who don’t believe.  They may even be a minority among those who do not know God, Rahab (Egypt) and Babylon (vs 4)  It is alright to be an exiled people, strangers in a strange land.  It is part of God’s plan.  God knows who are His.  Some are born of different nations, some of born of Zion.  But God always knows who are His.  He looks down and says this one was born in Zion (vs 5).

God creates, establishes, loves, and counts His people (vs 6).  Even if things look confused down here, He knows what’s going on from up there.  It was difficult to be God’s people in Egypt and Babylon.  It seems difficult sometimes today.  There is lots to be discouraged about.  But He is in control.  He has always been in control.  He knows who His people are and He writes their story.  Everything is all right.  It is because of that fact that all creative praise erupts to give Him glory.  All my springs are in you (vs 7).  

This is an actual stream from Zion.  Zion National Park in Utah that is!

This is an actual stream from Zion. Zion National Park in Utah that is!