Using white marble, in the year 1173 builders began constructing the bell tower we know as Italy’s famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. The tower was supposed to stand 185 feet high, about one-third the height of the Washington Monument, but the soft subsoil on which it was built caused one side of the structure to settle. The tower tipped at a precarious 10-degree angle for centuries until engineers reinforced it and reduced its tilt in the 1990s. The building’s off-balance yet intriguing beauty led one observer to say the tower “looks like a massive wedding cake knocked precariously askew by a clumsy giant guest.” The fact that the tower leans is one reason for its lasting appeal.
And so it is with our leader, Jesus Christ. We love him not only because he towers above us. We love him because time and time again he has leaned down to meet us where we are.
The Bending Christ
He bent down to serve. John’s Gospel captures divine drama when it says, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God” (John 13:3). What would we expect from someone who possesses supreme power over all things, who has come from God and is soon returning to God? We might expect him to dictate, dominate, and demand. But the following verses tell us “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” (vv. 4, 5). The greatest leader of all time leaned over and humbly washed his followers’ dirty feet.
He bent down to die. Though in his very nature he was God, Christ Jesus “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant . . . becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8). He went from the palace of Heaven to the gutter of Golgotha, but in the aftermath of Jesus’ supreme sacrifice “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” (v. 9).
The Towering Christ
Colossians chapter one reveals the surpassing glory of the preeminent Christ.
He towers over the natural universe. “For in him all things were created” (Colossians 1:16).
He towers above any other spiritual or governmental leaders. He reigns supreme over all “thrones or powers or rulers or authorities” for they were “created through him and for him” (v. 16).
He towers over the physical forces that produce and sustain life. “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (v. 17).
He towers over God’s covenant people. “He is the head of the body, the church” (v. 18).
He presides over God’s plan for redeeming a lost world, “making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (v. 20).
In the presence of his glory, we humble ourselves and worship him. Every knee should bow as our hearts overflow with grateful praise. Now we are the ones who lean, bending down before the majestic Son of God—our loving, leaning Leader.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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