THERE’S A sage-like writer whose work leaves me alternately shaking my head in delight or disagreement—but, then, I guess that’s the role of a good provocateur. While I have enjoyed his books, one of my favorite observations of his came in an introduction to someone else’s work.
He wrote of himself that he had reached an age and stage in life where he had little to prove and little to protect. Given that I am a decade-and-a-bit behind him, there’s still time for me to yet reach the same place of comfortable self-awareness—knowing what you and what you are not, and being content with both.
There’s something about being secure in your identity that is terribly freeing. And we see it clearly in the life of Jesus, naturally. Think of the Last Supper. The One through Whom everything in creation came into being, and Who sustains it all, got up from the table and bent down to wash His disciples’ feet.
Far from the ugly reality of First Century life in Israel, our contemporary understanding of this act is often a bit sentimentalized. It’s actually a bit like the President coming to help us use a bed pan when we are laid up after surgery. But Jesus didn’t care what people thought about His status. Why?
We read in John 13:3 it was because “knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, [he] rose…” Because He was confident of His standing with God, He didn’t mind kneeling before men.
That same surety can produce sacrifice as well as service. A few hours later, Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane when the lynch mob came for Him. The gang carried torches and weapons. What was Jesus’s response?
“Knowing all that would happen to him, [he] came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’” (John 18:4). That all was not only the crucifixion, awful as that was. It was also “the joy that was set before him” (Heb. 12:2)—fulfilling the Father’s wishes, and restoring broken creation.
I love what that quiet confidence and certainty did: the gang fell down before Him. Standing unarmed in the midst of a band of would-be toughs lying on the ground, He asked them again who they were looking for.
It must have been an awkward moment when they got up, dusted themselves off, and tried to look like they were in charge—all the while knowing that they were able to bind Jesus and lead Him away only because He let them. The prisoner was the One in control because He knew Who He was, and Whose He was. So may it be for each of us.
Photo: Library of Congress