Mark 9:35–First and last

Mark-9 35The Verse of the Day for January 29, 2014 expresses the paradox of servanthood: the last shall be first and the first shall be last. If you want to be in the premier position as number one, then put yourself in the last position by putting others first, and you will be great. A similar concept was expressed in another recent Verse of the Day taken from James 4:1 where we learn that that “the way down is the way up.”

Jesus Christ illustrates the same point that those who desire to be first should put themselves last and serve others first.  Nowhere is this portrait of a true servant of the Lord more vividly revealed than in the account where Jesus washes the feet of the disciples in John 13.

El_Lavatorio_(Tintoretto)A number of years ago, my wife and I received a special Christmas gift: a statue of Christ washing one of his disciples’ feet with the inscription John chapter 13 embossed on the base.  I was deeply moved when I opened the package and discovered such a priceless gift inside.   I recall a similar experience when I viewed another work of art that evoked a similar response.  In a journal entry written in 2003 as I was on my way to Dakar, Senegal, I described the situation and shared a poem based on the same account in John 13:

As I am enjoying the Vision of Madrid bus tour, I decide to get off at one of the stops—The Prado, the world famous museum housing a number of noteworthy works by such artists as Goya, El Greco, Velasquez, et.al.  Some of the most recognized works in the collection are religious themes and portraits based on incidents and individuals portrayed as if they were members of the contemporary society at the time the works were painted.  One particular painting, “El Lavatorio” by Tintoretto, deeply moves me in a profound way.  The larger than life painting depicts Jesus washing the feet of Peter, as the others have either had their feet washed or are waiting for the experience.  Once again I try to envision what the disciples must have thought when Jesus took a towel and a basin and began to wash their feet.  What an overwhelming lesson in humility.  As I reflect upon the painting which moves me to tears, I thought of this poem:

Let Me Wash Your Feet

John 13:4-5, 19

As Jesus put off his garments and wrapped a towel

around himself,

So I lay aside my pride with nothing to hide and

expose myself.

As a humble servant I long to wash your feet.

You could yourself

Perform this deed of loving service, but let me

serve you myself.

To allow me to wash your feet is to bless me,

as Christ himself

Blessed the Twelve before he departed from this earth.

You have yourself

The key to the door of blessing for you and me:

As Jesus took

Upon himself

The servant’s form

That I myself

Might freely give

To you yourself,

So I ask you

As Christ himself

Still asks of me,

So I ask you to

Let me to wash your feet.

“The Basin and the Towel,” musical composition by Michael Card, also portrays this moving account of John 13 in this video:

The Verse of the Day reminds us once again that those who would be great must first serve others.

basin and towel

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