“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”Revelation 5:12
John the Baptist says to the priests and Levites in John 1:26-27, “[A]mong you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
John, of course, was talking about Jesus. He was saying Jesus was so worthy, so great, so good, that John didn’t even deserve the privilege of throwing himself in the dirt at Jesus’ feet to even loosen the strap of one of his sandals.
John the Baptist’s ministry made much of the worthiness of Christ.
- “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
- “[F]or this purpose I came baptizing with water, that [Jesus] might be revealed to Israel.” (John 1:31)
- “And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:34)
- “[Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
The worthiness of Jesus was central to John’s ministry of pointing people to the Messiah.
The Worthiness of the World
But the worthiness of Jesus Christ was not just a powerful message 2,000 years ago. It’s still a powerful message for our culture today. But not in the way we typically see worthiness lived out.
Like it or not, our culture is very celebrity centered. We’re obsessed with celebrities. We use to just exalt athletes, actors, actresses, models, or politicians, for example. Now we exalt to celebrity status anyone with a clever Instagram account. Maybe most disheartening is the fact that the celebrity pastor is actually a thing.
What happens in our celebrity-driven culture is that when someone is repeatedly told how worthy they are and how great they are (pastors included), a separation starts to grow between them and everyone else who the world says is not worthy of their time, presence, or attention. Noses turn up as pride grows unchecked. Perceived worthiness leads to division and separation. This was true 2,000 years ago (see Herod or many of the Pharisees) and is still very true today.
The Worthiness of Jesus
But Jesus lived out his worthiness in a drastically different way. How Jesus lived out his worthiness is a powerful contrast to our celebrity culture.
What makes Jesus’ worthiness so different, so powerful, so life-changing is that in all his splendor, all his glory, all his worthiness, far greater than any celebrity who has ever lived, he humbled himself more than anyone.
In Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, Dane Ortlund says of Jesus, “For all his resplendent glory and dazzling holiness, his supreme uniqueness and otherness, no one in human history has ever been more approachable than Jesus Christ.”
Approachable is not a word we use with celebrities.
Yet, instead of separating himself from the discarded and overlooked, Jesus lived out his worthiness in a life-giving way that built connections with the broken, hurting, sinful people who the world, and even sometimes his own disciples, said were unworthy of Jesus’ time and attention.
That man full of leprosy? Don’t bother with him, Jesus. He’s not worth your time. Just stay clear of him and make sure you don’t touch him. (Luke 5:12-16)
That sinful woman weeping? Don’t let her touch you, Jesus. Don’t you know what sort of woman she is? You shouldn’t associate with people like that. (Luke 7:36-50)
That blind beggar calling out for help? Don’t listen to him, Jesus. You just keep walking. We’ll tell him to be quiet. (Mark 10:46-52)
That tax collector? No, Jesus. Don’t have dinner with him. You shouldn’t be seen with him. (Luke 5:27-32)
Those children? You don’t have time for them, Jesus. You have more important things to do. We’ll keep them back from you. (Luke 18:15-17)
The world says the broken, outcast, lonely, sick, unimportant, wrecked by sin are all unworthy of attention.
And yet those were the very ones Jesus couldn’t resist going to. His heart was for them.
Jesus, in his infinite worthiness, welcomed those very hurting, needy souls into a life-changing relationship the world told them they couldn’t have.
Jesus lived out his worthiness for the sake of the unworthy.
Worthy Washes Unworthy Feet
Remember how John the Baptist said how unworthy he was to even untie the sandal of Jesus? Now look at what Jesus does in John 13. Starting in verse 3 it says, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
The infinitely worthy Jesus washing the dirty feet of his unworthy disciples.
The amazing thing is this. In all of our unworthiness, in all of our sin, all of our shame, amidst our tears, in all the ways we rebel against Jesus and turn from him, Jesus is the one who instead stoops down, unties our sandals, slips them off and washes our filthy, sin-covered, dirty feet.
That is the depth of love we see from our Savior. A King who washes the dirty feet of his servants. Yet even more than that. A worthy King who dies for his sinful, rebellious, unworthy people.
Worthiness Lived for The Unworthy
In one sense, the world is right. We are unworthy of Jesus’ love and attention. Like John the Baptist, we too are unworthy of even untying one strap of Jesus’ sandal. There’s no way we deserve what he has done for us.
Yet, that’s exactly what makes his love and desire for us so remarkable, isn’t it?
We’re rebels against our King. Dead in our sin apart from Jesus. At heart, we’re children of wrath. We live for the passions of our own flesh. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
Yet God still sees fit to freely lavish the riches of his grace upon us through Jesus.
We’re not worthy of his presence, yet Jesus lived out his worthiness for the sake of the unworthy like you and me.
What a great and good Savior.