In the previous devotional I highlighted Henri Nouwen’s phrase “downward mobility.”* It stands in stark contrast to modern definitions of success (including “upward mobility”) which are focused on accumulating influence and power.
When I was young we would sometimes read the Mr. Men books. One of them was Mr. Topsy-Turvy. Things were very unexpected in his world. His curtains hung downside up instead of right side down. He said “Morning good,” instead of “Good morning.”
I can only imagine that Jesus came across in much the same way to many people, except in a more profound and existential way. He turned their expectations about the Messiah upside down.
After washing their feet, Jesus said: “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:13-15).
Was he speaking literally or figuratively? It’s hard to say. St. Austin points out that if we don’t do it with our hands we should certainly be prepared to do it with our hearts. Well said. Ultimately this is about humble servanthood.
Do you want to know which word Jesus never used? “Success.”
Do you want to know which words he did use? “Love, truth, faith, serve, mercy…”
How do you understand success?
Let’s continue to re-frame how we see the world and what we consider a good use of time.
When Mr. Topsy-Turvy left town, something strange happened. People were changed. He had rubbed off on them. They started to say and do the kinds of things that Mr. Topsy-Turvy said and did. He left an impression.
The same is true for Jesus.
“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
–Podcast Bible Study on John 13:1-30. Click here.
–*Henri Nouwen, In The Name of Jesus (New York: Crossroad, 1989).
–Bible quotes are from the NIV.