King or Servant

Jesus kingship is displayed in serving his disciples by washing their feet

Washing of Feet, by Giotto Scrovegni (1267-1337)

As we enter into Holy Week, we see Christ entering Jerusalem with the people saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David…hosanna in the highest.”  They put branches on the ground and are expectant of what he will do.  The memory of the raising of Lazarus—the Gospel we heard last weekend—is still fresh in their mind and many have come to see Him as the long-awaited Messiah.  By the end of the week, however, many people will be shouting on Good Friday, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!”  For them, Jesus had not fulfilled their expectations of what the Messiah would be.  He ate dinner with sinners, cured on the Sabbath and dared to decry the hypocrisy exhibited by the chief priests and scribes.  It is a tragic moment—the most tragic moment of all time—when we condemn our God to death.  It is a most stark contrast to the reception Jesus receives on Palm Sunday.

The crucifixion was brutal, there is no doubt about that, but if all we see is the pain and suffering we are missing the point.  This is the same Jesus that enters as the Son of David—in other words, as a king, the king—to the greetings of “hosanna!”  To see Good Friday as simply tragic is to miss the reality that Jesus longs for us to see.  It is the reality He strove to make crystal clear to His apostles.  On Holy Thursday, Jesus not only links the Old Testament covenant of Passover with the new covenant of the Eucharist by His own blood, He also links His kingship with His Passion.  To be king is to be servant of all.

“So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.  He took a towel and tied it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.” (John 13:2-5)

What was it that Jesus does when He is “fully aware” that His Father has put “everything into his power”?  He serves.  Wow…

To be king is to be a servant

Jesus’ kingship is one of the Suffering Servant

If I had all the power in the world, if I were king, would I choose to wash my friends’ feet or stretch out my hands and be nailed to a cross?  Would you?  Make no mistake; Jesus does not want to die in His humanity.  He prays that the “cup pass from me,” but He submits Himself to the will of the Father and was obedient even until death.  To be a king is to be a servant, and to be a servant is to be a king.  As we go throughout Holy Week and we see the many responses to Jesus, from “Hosanna in the highest” to “Crucify him” let us realize that they are the flip side of the same coin.  Jesus’ kingly glory is His suffering; Jesus kingship is made present in His servant hood.

Lord, teach us to enter into service with Your Son, so as to enter into His glory.  Thank You for Your Passion and Your resurrection.  Amen.


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