What would you do if you realized you were the most powerful person in the room? Or the most powerful person in someone’s life?
Probably we would all answer that differently, and we probably would answer it differently than how we would actually react, but I love the way John writes about Jesus being in that situation.
Because, at some point, it occurs to Jesus that he’s not just the most powerful person in the room. Or in his town. Or in Galilee. Or in all of Israel. But one day, Jesus acknowledges that he’s the most powerful person, everywhere. I love the way John put it in 3:3: “Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything…”
What would you do if you were in that boat?
Because, and John makes it clear this is Jesus’ response, Jesus did something remarkable. And here’s the way John starts it so that we would know that the response was intimately connected to the acknowledgment:
Jesus knew that he had authority over everything. So…
Jesus knew. So…
Jesus recognized. So…
Jesus acknowledged. So…
So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. (John 3:4 & 5)
I’ve been thinking a lot about humility lately. I’ve read a few statements lately that have said things like, “We are so humbled to receive this award.““Participating in this event is so humbling.” “What a humbling experience.”
And I’m convinced we all get it wrong when we say things like that. Because I think humility is forgetfulness.
Hang with me. No one would argue that Jesus lacked humility in this moment. But Jesus just went from acknowledging that he is, in truth, the ruler of all. To becoming a servant of all. He didn’t despise his authority. He didn’t shrug it off like, “Aw shucks.” He didn’t pass it off like it was a bad thing. Instead, he acknowledged it as a fact, then moved on, forgetting about it entirely.
We have bought into the lie that humility is a certain opinion of ourselves or our talents. Namely, a low one. But I love the way CS Lewis puts it (Screwtape Letters, letter 14): “thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools. And since what they are trying to believe may, in some cases, be manifest nonsense, they cannot succeed in believing it and we have the chance of keeping their minds endlessly revolving on themselves in an effort to achieve the impossible.”
“Keeping their minds endlessly revolving on themselves”. I could write for days on that phrase alone.
And doesn’t that perfectly describe our struggle, most of the time? I try to keep so many competing thoughts in my head, always going around and around and chasing myself in circles.
But God doesn’t want us to have competing thoughts. It’s ok to have spiritual gifts and talents. He gave them to us. It’s not-ok to think that we are the be-all-end-all. Or to kick dust on them and talk bad about what we’ve got. Or, worse, to do what I do most of the time and go from thinking, “I was really in my element there” to “I suck at all of life” within five minute intervals.
No, no, no. What’s better is to become forgetful. To forget about ourselves because we are so consumed with who God is and what God is doing in our world.