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The Upside-Down Kingdom

Just imagine opening this morning’s newspaper and reading the title, “{Your best friend} plans the murder of {your name.} Go ahead. Say it out loud. Let it sink in… what it must have been like for Jesus to turn the page of history and see the title, “Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus.” One of His elite group would be the one to deliver Him into enemy’s hands. Judas, who walked and talked with Jesus, who joined Him in the synagogues each Sabbath, who ate meals with Him, didn’t truly love Him.

Judas was so angered when he finally got a whiff of Jesus’ plan. It didn’t involve an earthly kingdom at all. He wouldn’t have the opportunity to rule and reign, after all. And so he decided to get even (or so he thought) by signing Jesus’ death warrant.

And yet, Judas joined them for the Last Supper with the Savior. On the night Judas betrayed Jesus, he sat with the disciples and played the part of one of them. How sobering it must have been for Jesus to look around that table and see Peter, who would deny Him; Judas, who would betray Him; and the other disciples, who would flee from Him. Yet, we observe no animosity in Jesus’ words or actions. He is kind, calm, and gentle. He was prepared to give up His life on our behalf.

But as if that wasn’t enough, on this night, we find Him on His hands and knees, washing the feet of these same men. He loved them in such a way that their sin didn’t anger Him here. Even as they argued about who was the greatest among them, He patiently assured them that He was saving a place for them in His Kingdom. He even told them that they will receive these benefits because they had stayed with Him during His trials. Yet He knew that a few verses later, they would not be able to stay awake to pray with Him at the most crucial point of His life.

This is the God we serve. He bends down to us even when we are consumed with ourselves. He doesn’t seem to feel taken advantage of by anyone. (In fact, I think I am more angry about this than He is!)

This God we serve is King of an upside-down Kingdom. He doesn’t operate the way we do. He doesn’t demand our eye for His eye. He doesn’t feel the need to expound on all that He has given up for us. He doesn’t get huffy or give the silent treatment like I would do.  He just… loves.

Another oddity in this passage is this: just hours before He sweats drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, he is eating a meal, drinking wine, and giving thanks.

How is it that on the night he was betrayed, Jesus could still give thanks? Give thanks for His betrayer? Give thanks for the people He had come to save that had rejected Him? Yet in the midst of His inner turmoil, He thought to give thanks for their bread. Is it possible that this act of giving thanks is an anecdote for our grief?

When I’m in the middle of a tough situation, the last thing I usually think to do is thank God. For that flat tire? For that job loss? For this illness? Blessed are those that mourn; for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4). Yes, we mourn the consequences of sin, but we don’t grieve without hope. Jesus kept His eyes on the prize… our souls reconciled with the Father’s. When we focus on Jesus instead of on our suffering, we are able to give thanks.

What grudge do we need to lay aside today? Can we forgive that small offense in light of the HUGE debt of which Jesus has forgiven us? Maybe we need to get down on our hands and knees and serve that person who has hurt us. Maybe we can start by simply giving thanks.

And then we can set out to follow our Father’s footsteps.

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