John makes it clear that Jesus was King of the Street. His record tells us that as Christ approached Jerusalem, the pilgrims went out to meet Him. They proclaimed Him to be, “King of Israel” (12:13) while He was still on the road leading into the city.
And yet, John also lets us know that Jesus was a king unlike any other—even as King of the Street. When Alexander the Great came to Jerusalem some 350 years before, if he wasn’t in a chariot, he would have been perched atop his mighty stallion, Bucephalus. You can imagine the people looking up at him and being duly impressed. He had all the trappings of power and greatness. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, He was riding “a young donkey” (v. 14). It was almost a parody of what kings did. Imagine what it looked like with His legs almost touching the ground. Not exactly intimidating and certainly not very king-like.
Generally speaking, it’s not difficult to be king of the street. You are the center of attention. Everyone likes you and says nice things about you (“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”). The world is full of people who want to be king of the street. (Let’s be honest, that doesn’t sound like a bad deal, does it?)
This theme of Jesus’ kingship is carried over into chapter thirteen. It seems to me that John makes a big point of telling us that Jesus knew He had come from God and was going to God. He knew that “the Father had put all things under His power” (v. 3). His disciples might have been unaware of the significance of all that was going on. The multitudes were certainly ignorant of the truths they were professing. But John wants us to understand that Jesus was fully conscious of His royalty and standing.
And because He knew He was King and had all power, Jesus got up from the table and got a basin, pitcher of water and a towel. He then got down on His knees and began to wash the feet of those who were arguing about which one of them was greatest in the kingdom of God (Luke 22:24ff). He used His power to serve the unlovely. The King of the Street was also the King of the Upper Room.
Being King of the Upper Room is considerably more difficult venture. You aren’t the center of attention—you’re the servant of all. There’s a good chance the people you serve won’t appreciate what you’re doing (the disciples didn’t—John 13:12ff). It can be a thankless task, which is why the world is not full of people seeking to be king of the upper room.
Most of us have the opportunity to be the king of the street (even if on a very small scale) and king of the upper room. We find ourselves in situations where we have some power or authority as well as situations that clearly call for us to get down on our knees. Jesus handled both the street and the upper room with equal grace, humility, and humanity. He could do this because He was no mere King—He was (and is) a Servant King.
And we’re called to follow in His steps.