Top to Bottom, Bottom to Top
[This first appeared as a guest post at Jane Hinrichs’s site on January 23, 2012, and I am grateful for the opportunity she gave me to foist my early writings into the blogosphere. She always provides insightful and encouraging devotional thoughts on her blog and it is one of my daily reads.]
Hi-De-Ho There, Things Are Looking Up!
I love the Blood, Sweat and Tears song “Hi-De-Ho”. It’s got great lyrics, a great jazz/rock tune, and an even greater lead vocal. I’ve listened to it for decades. But even though it’s been a while since I’ve heard it, one line in particular has been repeating in my mind the last few days:
I’ve been down so low
Bottom looked like up
It’s not that I’ve been feeling low myself lately. Rather, the line came to me while I was browsing through the M.C. Escher website and found this drawing in the gallery. Talk about bottom looking like up!
The drawing also got me thinking about our lives in Christ. In Mark 9:30-35, Jesus talks of his death, that the authorities will kill him but that he will rise on the third day. This confused his disciples. If they were looking for a political Messiah who would set things right, talk of death was not fitting in with their plans to triumph over their oppressors. Then Jesus went further and told them that the point was not to try to take over and make themselves first in the new society, but to put themselves last and become servants. That, he promised, was the only way to truly become first in God’s kingdom.
They didn’t get it. They might have thought they did, but they didn’t. It wasn’t long before the brothers James and John asked Jesus for a special favor, just for the two of them. (Mark 10:35-45.) In fact, they asked Jesus to do something that would elevate them above all others: to sit at Jesus’ right and left hands when he establishes his kingdom. When the other ten disciples found out, they were not at all pleased. Jesus set all of them straight with even stronger language than he used earlier:
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
His kingdom is not to be like the kingdoms they saw around them. There would be no airs of superiority, no trappings of power, no lording it over anyone. Instead, the ones who are first in God’s kingdom are the servants, even the slaves. Did you get that? Slaves are first! And the King himself is not only a servant (rather than the one being served) but he is to be a ransom for his people, a ransom which will come by way of his own death.
In God’s kingdom, it is by traveling to the bottom that we see those who are at the top. I think this is one of the reasons James tells us: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10.) It is God who lifts us up, not our own efforts. And in him, we share the glorious life of Christ himself: “He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 2:14.)
The great Servant himself, our Ransom, desires that we, who once could not tell down from up, will be with him forever:
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face … . And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:3-5.)
His servants will reign with him? How marvelous to think that James and John got what they wanted after all, even if they had the wrong idea of how to get there, and that we will share in this wonderful reign as well.
Bottom really is starting to look like up.