by Wesley C. Parker
Driving on a road trip, my daughter once asked, “Dad, I know driving a car is about steering and pushing those pedals down there. But is there more to it than that?” We then had a good talk about the finer points of road safety, sipping juice boxes and nibbling Timbits as we wound our way through the southern interior of BC. One thing I was reminded of as we talked was that a part of safe driving is not just avoiding the obstacles we see in front of us, but also anticipating possible dangers so that we are prepared ahead of time; that’s why we pack jumper cables and a spare tire.
Jesus tells His disciples in Matt. 18 that they must have faith like a child in order to enter the Kingdom of heaven. And I think, along with meaning simple, trusting faith, Jesus also meant a faith that remains curious like a child; a faith that is willing to still ask questions of their Father in heaven and not assume that they know all there is to know. As I learned again just the other day, we discover some pretty cool things when we do that.
The question actually did not even initiate with me, but through a trusted friend, as I was considering the implications of Jesus’ Incarnation as it relates to our own incarnational living today. From my study, I had concluded that what we see in passages like John 1, Phil. 2 and John 13 is that the heart of incarnational living is humble service. But then, just like my daughter on that road trip, my curious friend asked me to consider, “I know that part of Jesus’ Incarnation is about humble service of others, sure ... but is there more to it than that?”
He then gently pointed to the verses just previous to Jesus’ washing of His disciple’s feet, and now, my own curiosity was piqued. I dug in and saw that vss. 1-3 of John 13 actually provide a prologue of sorts to Jesus’ feet washing, that ends up elevating His humble service from powerful to staggering. And the way it does that is by describing all that Jesus knew before He wrapped Himself in a servant’s towel or washed a single foot. A quick survey of those verses tells us Jesus knew at least:
- His "hour" had come which meant He knew He was about to be handed over, brutalized and then crucified.
- He knew that Satan had already put it into the heart of Judas to betray Him
- He knew that God had put all things into His hands and that He was the Son of God
- Later verses tell us also that He knew Peter would deny Him and all His disciples would abandon Him
Jesus knew all of that before He humbly served His disciples. Which means that Jesus was not only fully aware of what He was doing, He was also fully aware of who He was doing it for! He was humbly serving people He knew were about to betray Him, deny Him, and abandon Him.
That means that on an infinitely larger scale, the humility of Jesus taking on human flesh and dying in our place described in Phil. 2, had the exact same eyes-wide-open intentionality and awareness on a global scale that we see Jesus having before washing His disciples’ feet in John 13. It means that in the Incarnation, we see Jesus humbly serving a human race that He already knew (“being in very nature God”) would be the same people who would reject Him, mock Him, and eventually crucify Him. And it also means that Jesus didn’t even just come to humbly serve the needs He saw in front of Him (our past rebellion), but He also anticipated the needs we would have in the future (our continued rebellion); knowingly, purposefully wading into that stinking cesspool of our sin until it actually covered over His head in order to humbly serve us. Apply that standard to your present ministry grid and see how you're doing living incarnationally.
Have this mind among you
Paul tells us in Philippians 2 that our own humble service to others - part of our own incarnational living - is to be patterned after Jesus’ Incarnation; that’s a part of what he means when he tells us to, “have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus.” But does that mean just humbly serving other people when we see a need?
Or is there more to it than that?