Sorry We Didn’t Recognize You Jesus

Today the church remembers the death of Jesus on the cross. As we read the story we often denigrate the Roman soldiers, the Jewish religious leaders, Pilate and even the followers of Jesus.

How could they not know that this was the Son of God we ask? How could they mock Him as He hung on the cross and died?

I recently read an article by Steve Cordle in his book A Jesus-Shaped Life which I would like to share here.

A forty-year-old white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap found a spot next to a garbage can near the entrance of the Washington metro station. He pulled a violin from a small case and placed the open case at his feet. As most huskers do, he threw in a few dollars as seed money and began to play.

He spent the next forty-three minutes playing immortal classics by Mozart and Schubert as a parade of people streamed by. This violinist was no ordinary street musician, however, and he didn’t need the money. His name is Joshua Bell, and he is one of the finest concert violinists in the world. The violin he was playing was a Stradivarius made in 1713 and worth over $3.5 million.

The Washington Post newspaper had arranged for him to play at the metro as an experiment in whether people would recognize greatness and beauty in unlikely places. That day, 1097 people passed by Bells concert. Seven people stopped to listen to him play. Only one person recognized him.

That same week, Bell played to capacity concert hall crowds paying at least $100 per ticket. At the subway Bell collected a total of about $32 from the twenty-seven people who stopped long enough to donate.

It is understandable that most people did not recognize Bell. Even if they were classical music buffs, no one expects to come upon a world-renowned virtuoso playing in the subway.

No one expected that God would appear on earth in the form of a servant either.

But are we any different today? How often do we go about our busy lives – doing our own thing – and take little or no time to communicate with Jesus? How often do we make decisions without even bothering to seek His direction? How often do we fail to see His mercy, His love and His grace all about us? How much of our time is devoted to our own pursuits with little time left over for Him?

As we reflect on His death so long ago, help us to not be guilty of giving Him a few moments this weekend and then go back to our own routines with little or no acknowledgment of Him.

Are We True Servants?

Today in many churches there will be a service called Tenebrae. This is a Latin word meaning “darkness.” These services share the story of the suffering and death of Jesus from the Gospel of John. The lights in the church are dimmed and candles are lit at the front. As each portion of scripture is read, a candle is extinguished. The final story of the burial is read in near darkness. As the service concludes everyone is encouraged to leave in silence and to spend time thinking of the death of Jesus – and of the celebration waiting on Sunday.

As we ponder this day we remember that it was on Thursday that Jesus washed the disciples feet. He did this to emphasis His purpose in coming to earth – and also to set an example to us of what true Christianity was all about – being a servant.

In Mark’s Gospel we are told:

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

When His disciples were arguing about who would be first in God’s kingdom Jesus told them that His kingdom would be different than any kingdom.

You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 

“Be a servant.” “Be a slave.” That hardly fits with our culture today. We are encouraged to “get ahead”, “be successful”, “rise to the top.”

Many times before we commit to something we want to know “what’s in it for me?”

Jesus has called His followers to be different.

In Philippians we are told:

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

As we reflect and celebrate what this weekend means to Christians, let us renew our commitment to be “like Jesus” and be a servant.

What does a servant look like:

  • They do not seek the limelight
  • They often work behind the scene
  • They do not expect a payback
  • They put the needs of others before their own

I think perhaps the best statement of a servant was by Rick Warren who said:

The real test of whether we are a servant is how we act when we are treated like one.