If in an interview you were asked to list the great forces of evil that oppose God, what would you place on that list? Murder? Incest? Homosexuality? Adultery? Deceit? Abuse of children, spouses, or the elderly? Exploitation? Betrayal? Hate? Racism? Injustice? Abuse of power? Addiction? Materialism? Divorce? Selfishness? Self-indulgence? Rebellion? Lawlessness?
Would your list include human arrogance? No master wanted an arrogant servant. A servant exists to serve. Arrogance rises from an exaggerated sense of self-importance. As arrogance grows, serving declines. Arrogance creates the justification for refusing to serve. Arrogance takes one's eyes off the master. Arrogance places one's eyes on self.
Arrogance is the enemy of humility. Humility submits; arrogance defies. Humility looks at others; arrogance looks at self. Humility quietly recognizes "my significance is defined in my service to others;" arrogance exaggerates "my self-importance." Humility never regards service as inappropriate; arrogance regards service as appropriate only if serving benefits "me." Humility is a blessing; arrogance is a curse.
What causes an humble disciple to become an arrogant disciple? The transition from humility to arrogance can occur for many reasons. Weariness, frustration, acquired power, acquired money, a rising sense of self-importance, and injustice are a few of those reasons.
Consider Jesus' twelve disciples. The little information that we have indicates they made great sacrifices to follow Jesus. For example, Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew left occupations to follow Jesus on a daily basis [Matthew 4:18-22; 9:9]. These men had jobs and an income in a poor society. When Jesus invited them to follow him, they did so immediately. Humility followed. Arrogance would have declared, "Our lives and commitments are much too important to drop everything and follow you. What can you offer us in this sea of poverty?"
Jesus gave them nothing physical. They did not follow for money; Jesus had none. They did not follow for prestige; the elite of Israel rejected Jesus. They did not follow for governing power; Jesus was not a ruler. They did not follow to climb Israel's "social ladder;" Jesus worked among the poor and outcasts. They stayed with him in good times and bad. They experienced the joy of appreciation and the sting of ingratitude.
But in less than two weeks they went from humble men who feared that their master would be killed to arrogant men who thought only of themselves. It was not a difficult transition. While they humbly followed, they often argued about which one was the most important. Jesus repeatedly [without much success] tried to teach them that God determined importance by service, not by position.
They followed Jesus in the conviction that he was the Messiah. They hoped someday he would rule as king over physical Israel. Often that hope was dim. But for one week [the last week of Jesus' life] Jesus' kingship seemed certain. That week they became arrogant men. They took their eyes off of God and saw only themselves. To rescue them from their arrogance, Jesus seized that moment to embarrass them.
John 13:1-11 states that it was the feast of the Passover. Jesus privately ate that meal with the twelve. After they were prepared to eat [or had started eating?], Jesus got up, took off his robe, put a towel around his waist, and washed the feet of each disciple. What a painful moment for the disciples! How devastating to have Jesus humble himself before their arrogance!
There are many questions that we could ask and discuss about this incident on the last night of Jesus' physical life. No question is more important than this question: what should we learn from what happened when Jesus washed his disciples feet? If we ask and answer all questions but that one, Jesus teaches us nothing by washing his disciples feet.
Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 2, Lesson 5
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