A number of years ago we showed a film strip outdoors near the church we started in Valladolid, Spain. It was one of those old timers that had a cassette tape with it. There would be a clicking noise on the cassette when you were to change the slide on the filmstrip. Even then, it was outdated technology.
But it was worth it. The filmstrip was made in France and we rented it from Campus Crusade. It was about a town in the Wild West. This town had a rigid hierarchy. Everybody had a button pin on them with a number. I don’t remember if the mayor or the priest had the number one, but I do know that the town drunk had the last number. Everyone knew where they were in the established order and who was above them and who was behind them.
In the filmstrip, Jesus showed up in this town and they wanted to give Him a button with a number, but He refused. They offered Him better numbers all the time if He would just pin on the button. He refused their tempting offers over and over. In the end, they became furious with Him because He was not following the rules and so they killed him. The filmstrip ends by showing that many of the inhabitants of that town started unpinning their buttons having been impacted by the determination that they had seen in that Man who was willing to risk rejection, ostracism and even death to remain faithful to his decision.
One of the “advantages” that legalism offers is that it allows you to know just who is above you and who is inferior to you. Legalism creates a hierarchy, it creates order.
Jesus refused to participate in this. He does not insist on His place in the pecking order. He is a servant.
When the final night came that He was to be with His disciples, He took the lowest place among all of them and showed what was in His heart. He did the worst job — maybe it can be compared to cleaning the toilets in the church building — which was washing the others’ feet. That was a slave’s job, and not just any slave, but the slave that had the least favor in the household. John tells us how He rose after supper, laid aside His garments and took a towel to gird Himself. He then began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel He was using to cover Himself.1 This was extremely awkward for the disciples and they didn’t know what to do.
If Jesus did that, who in the world am I, even though I am an ordained minister of the Gospel, to refuse to do any job in the church? How on earth can I think that certain tasks are for the newcomers or for the people in the church that have an inferior number on the button pinned on them?
What does it mean when it says that we should with humility of mind regard one another as more important than ourselves?2 How far do we go with this? I am a minister, but I do not see my position in the Body as superior to that of anyone else. I just have a different job to do. Some are eyes, others are ears…3
Even Apostles, Paul was one of them, did not consider themselves as superior to anyone. Paul wrote saying that he felt that God exhibited the apostles as the last of all, as men who were condemned to death, as a spectacle to the world.4 He also referred to himself and the rest of the apostles as the scum of the earth, the dregs.5
The disciples fought to obtain a higher place in the hierarchy.6 They strived to obtain a place in this world and in the world to come.7
God help us to not do the same as the disciples! God help us to unpin the button when we gather together, gird ourselves with the towel, and serve the least of our brothers.
1- John 13:4, 5 2- Philippians 2:3 3- 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 4- 1 Corinthians 4:9 5- 1 Corinthians 4:13 6- Mark 9:34; Luke 9:46 7- Matthew 20:21; Mark 10:37