Maundy Thursday – The Greatest Servant

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day of Holy Week when Jesus and his disciples celebrated their last supper.

On this day, we read that they rented a room in which to eat the traditional Passover meal, full of symbolism, of which Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment.

Being that people wore open sandals and that the roads were dirt, it meant that if they had been walking around outside, people’s feet were dirty.  Not only were they dirty from dusty roads, but without modern sewage systems, a lot of waste would end up in the streets, adding to the level of grime and filth on a person’s feet after simply going about a day’s business outside. Especially, considering that dinner was eaten sitting on pads on the floor, this foot washing was important because of the close proximity people would be in to each other’s feet – smelly feet ruin appetites.

For this reason, the custom was for people who entered a house to remove their sandals and wash their feet. If you were a guest at someone’s house, usually that foot washing would be taken care of by the host, or if the host could afford it, by a servant.

However, Jesus and his disciples were using a borrowed room, so there was no host to welcome them, and no servant assigned to wash people’s feet.

Luke’s Gospel tells us that as they sat at this dinner table, eating the passover – the disciples began to argue over which of them was the greatest. Presumably, part of this discussion was also to determine which one of them was the least – which one of them should become the servant of all and wash everyone’s feet.

And then something happened which no one expected: Jesus stood up and wrapped a towel around his waist and one by one, he washed the feet of his disciples.

Peter, seeing this, protested! How could he let Jesus serve him?! He should be serving Jesus!   But Jesus told Peter: If you don’t let me serve you, you can have no part in me.

And Jesus explained to them – that if anyone would be the greatest in His Kingdomhe must become the servant of all. In His Kingdom, those who humble themselves are the greatest, and those who exalt themselves will be humbled. Jesus explained: “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But it will not be so amongst you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the least, and the leader as one who serves.”

At another point Jesus had said: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

How are you doing as a servant? Pursue true greatness and be like Jesus: a servant.

Sold into the Hand of Sisera

Last Sunday I preached on 1 Samuel 12, which is the speech that Samuel gives to the nation at the re-coronation of Saul.

There is a very intriguing statement in this section, which I didn’t address in the sermon, but I think is worthy of consideration.

And Samuel said to the people, “The Lord is witness, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt. Now therefore stand still that I may plead with you before the Lord concerning all the righteous deeds of the Lord that he performed for you and for your fathers. When Jacob went into Egypt, and the Egyptians oppressed them, then your fathers cried out to the Lord and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your fathers out of Egypt and made them dwell in this place. But they forgot the Lord their God. And he sold them into the hand of Sisera, commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab. And they fought against them. And they cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. But now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, that we may serve you.’ And the Lord sent Jerubbaal and Barak and Jephthah and Samuel and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and you lived in safety. (1 Samuel 12:6-11, ESV)

Samuel says: Let me tell you of all the righteous deeds of the Lord that he performed for you.  Then he tells them that God “sold them into the hand of Sisera,” a Philistine general.

Notice – he didn’t ‘allow them to fall into the hand of Sisera’ – it wasn’t a passive allowance, but an active SELLING! He SOLD them into the hand of Sisera – and THIS, of all things, is given as an example of one of the righteous acts of the Lord, which he performed on behalf of the people of Israel because of his love and care for them!

This is a little bit different picture of God than what we usually get in the “moralistic therapeutic deism” which is passed for Christianity these days in many places – where God exists to be your friend, make your problems go away and make your wishes come true. When bad things happen, usually we are told that God passively allows these things to happen to you, so that you can grow through them.

But isn’t that a bit trite and simplistic?  Not to mention – that viewpoint has no capacity to deal with real evil – or even with scriptures such as the one mentioned above. The vision of God given here is of a God who is willing to sell you into the hand of Sisera if that’s what it takes to get you to turn back to Him! To God, in this story, it was obviously more important to Him that the people of Israel turn back to Him and pursue Him than that they be comfortable and problem-free.

What about you? Is it possible that the difficulties in your life have not just been passively “allowed” by God, but actively sent by God into your life for the purpose of moving you in a certain direction or getting you to a certain place, either physically or spiritually?

Could it be that God has sold you into the hand of Sisera in order to do a work in your heart, because He loves you?