When we “put on” or clothe ourselves with Jesus, we also are putting on the slave garment of humility. We are emptying ourselves to let God do whatever He wants with us. This is a hard thing to swallow for those of us who have wanted to do something wonderful for God.
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5 NIV)
” … whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-27)
Put on Jesus Part one, explored the Greek word enduo which means to sink into, clothe, or put on, as in “putting on” Christ Jesus. There is another Greek word that means to clothe and that is egkomboomai (ἐγκομβόομαι). It is used only once in 1 Peter 5:5b, but it has helped me to understand better what it means to “put on” Jesus.
Egkomboomai has a very particular meaning. It means to engirdle oneself for labor, to put on “the apron as being a badge of servitude.” This apron “was the white scarf or apron of slaves, which was fastened to the belt of the vest and distinguished slaves from freemen, hence in 1Peter 5:5, ‘gird yourselves with humility as your servile garb’ means by putting on humility, show your subjection one to another. Also, this refers to the overalls which slaves wore to keep clean while working, an exceedingly humble garment.”[i] The root of egkomboomai is the Greek word komboo (κόμβος) which means to gird or to tie fast with a knot or band. Egkomboomai “seems to teach that humility is a garment which must be firmly fastened on and bound closely round us.”[ii] Perhaps this is because humility slips off us so easily, not being our natural state.
Jesus showed us how to do this, how to put on this slave garment of humility when he washed the disciples’ feet.
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:3-5 NIV)
The Greek word translated “towel” in this verse is lention (λέντιον), and it is “the linen towel or apron with which servants put on when about to work.” So that is what Jesus did, he put on the badge of servitude, the thing that “distinguished slaves from freemen.” It was probably this, as much as the washing of the feet, that shocked Peter so much. The Lord, the Messiah, the King who was supposed to come and set his people free from Roman domination and give Israel a reason to be proud again, dressing up as the lowest of the low – a slave. That was not how it was supposed to be!
But notice what is says in John 13:3 – “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” Jesus knew who and whose he was. He knew victory was a done deal. He also knew that the victory the Father had in mind was not going to be accomplished by insurrection and violence and forcing his Kingship. It would be by emptying himself, becoming a slave, totally giving it all up. Victory would be accomplished by sacrificial love.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant (or slave), and being made in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5-7 NASB)
When we “put on” or clothe ourselves with Jesus, we also are putting on the slave garment of humility. We are emptying ourselves to let God do whatever He wants with us. This is a hard thing to swallow for those of us who have wanted to do something wonderful for God – to be a great intercessor, healer, pastor, evangelist, missionary – blogger – something. To earn the approval of God and others, to be looked up to, maybe even (secretly or unconsciously) want to be admired, recognized. Instead, maybe to be forgotten, unknown, unrecognized, maybe even looked down upon. Possibly, to never know, in this life, if what you have done has made any difference at all. No wonder we need to tie the knot so tightly.
“God is not looking for impressive witnesses who will tell people about God but for humble witnesses who will “bear” God’s presence to others—be they powerful Pharaohs or poor beggars.” J.C. Walt
“Bear God’s presence”! What an amazing, humbling thing! Could it be that putting on Christ Jesus, clothing myself with the garment of the humble Servant-King, is a way to bear His presence into a hurting, broken world? Lord Jesus, show me how to do that. Help me to tie the knot fast to you.
Image: Ford Maddox Brown, Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet [1852-6], Tate Archive, image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)
[i] Thayer’s New Testament Greek-English Lexicon
[ii] The Pulpit Commentary, edited by H. D. M. Spence, Joseph S. Exell