John the Baptist did not attract thousands to the wilderness by living in a lavish palace, with his sartorial refinement, or with his culinary taste. His clothes were made of camel’s hair and his diet was even more unappealing. It was his message about the judgment of God that brought people to listen. He said, “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” He called his listeners to repentance in view of the coming judgment of God.
In our days we hear so much talk about superiority – superiority of race, superiority of gifts, superiority of ability, superiority of performance. We often write about the people who are the first – the first from this ethnic group to gain a seat on the Supreme Court, the first of this ethnic group to become a senator, or the first of this group to become the best surgeon. While achievements of this nature should be praised, we rarely talk about people who humbled themselves and served their people. We praise new millionaires, but we rarely read about millionaires distributing all their riches in order to serve others. Apostle Paul writes this about Jesus – he became poor so that we can inherit the riches of God.
When people move from one stage of life to another, they tend to forsake their initial status. There are people who move from poverty to riches; once they are in a new financial category, they forget those who they have left behind. I hear stories from children of Depression who tell us how they have moved so far beyond what their parents and grandparents had. I hear from immigrants who came here with a suitcase that was almost empty and one or two generations later, they have become rich. I have seen families with a small house, where ten family members from multiple generations lived. Their homes now are sometimes ten times bigger than the family household with one-fifth of the people present, and they still think of bigger and more luxurious spaces.
In talking with people who are in service industries – restaurants, trades, libraries, clerks – we find out that the people who are being served become more and more pretentious. People who are being served feel from time to time that those who are serving them are not as smart or privileged as they are. In fact, their service to us confirms their lower status or their inability to be what we are.
Jesus came preaching about the Kingdom of God. In the midst of so many kingdoms and empires, he presented a new order. The world order of that day (as in our day) basically admired highly accomplished persons who climb to the top, regardless of the cost. They were the ones that were admired and served by everyone else and the more they were served, the more prestigious they became. But in the King James version of the Bible, we read these concise words: “Not so among you. If I your Master have washed your feet this was an example of the Kingdom of God. Blessed are you who know this and do this.”