False humility is annoying. People who attempt to temporarily abandon their impressive images to show that they are just like the rest of us are about as fake as you can get. The rest of us are quick to pick up on it, too. That’s why a presidential candidate who works so hard at showing he can relate to the average Joe loses all progress by mentioning his two Cadillacs (in an attempt to show that he supports the average American Joe in the car industry, no less!). That’s why people wonder at the sincerity of a president who spends millions of taxpayer dollars for a night on the town in Manhattan in the midst of soaring unemployment. You could argue that these men have earned certain perks because of the hard-won successes each has achieved – and I wouldn’t disagree with you. But they show how the world’s approach to power and success flies in the face of the ways of the Kingdom of heaven.
John starts out chapter 13 of his gospel in an interesting way. Verse three:
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
Jesus knew quite well who he was, thank you very much, and the office of the President can’t hold a candle to it. He knew the significance that his actions over the next 24 hours would have on all of creation that, by the way, had been made possible only because of him to begin with. He was fully aware of the pedigree of his origin and its unchangeable reality for eternity. John uses this info in verse three to preface what Jesus does in verse four. The first word “so” shows that the info in verse three is the motivation behind what happens next:
4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (NIV)
Washing dirty, smelly feet goes way further than good deeds like serving food to the needy on Thanksgiving – but that’s what Jesus chose to do to show the full extent of the power of his love. You don’t even have to be in a race for the Oval Office to get this wrong. The pursuit of humility the world’s way is a frustrating task, and yet we so easily miss the point of Jesus’ example.
Here’s what I get out of this scene: true humility isn’t pretending that you’re lower than you really are to gain the favor of people. It’s being aware of the high value granted to you by the high price of Jesus’ sacrifice and letting it prompt you to do selfless acts that give honor to the One you represent.
Happy Maundy Thursday.