There is hardly a more written about, talked about, or preached about text than John 13 where Jesus washes the Disciples feet. Although it hardly seems worth it to add my voice to the masses that have commented on it I noticed a few things that pertain to abundant life when I read it this morning in my devotional time. And so I add my thoughts.
It goes without saying that Jesus modeled some pretty amazing things here. He was God, all powerful; and yet from that position of power served fisherman and tax collectors in the most menial task imaginable. Some will say that Jesus was doing the work of a servant, like a first century butler who’s job it would have been to perform this task. However, I think given none of them were particularly affluent or wealthy, it is far more likely that most of them would have washed their own feet. Therefore, Jesus did for them something that they could have, and probably would have done on their own.
I don’t know what this says to you, but it makes me wonder how many things Jesus would like to do for me that I simply won’t allow him to do because it’s something I can do, or am used to doing on my own? Where is Jesus trying to break into my life and reveal himself to me?
Peter simply doesn’t understand and tries to refuse and then when Jesus says he has to yield, Peter tries to turn it into some kind of ceremonial ritual. He wants to change the nature of the act so it is more like an Old Testament anointing or baptism than a simple foot washing. We all do this in many ways. Jesus say’s you are forgiven and our instinct is to turn that into anything but a free gift a grace. We insist on working for it, over thinking it, and setting up complicated rules for receiving it. With a little thought we can all find ways that we want Jesus to do it our way.
But the most profound thing to me is that Jesus washed the feet of someone who harbored evil in his heart toward Him. Jesus looked into the eyes of someone who had evil intentions and tenderly took his foot in hand and washed it just as he had done all the others. How could he do this? It’s because he loved Judas. Not like we love others; conditionally on what they bring to our lives, but unconditionally like we love our children. In a world where people switch churches because the pastor forgot to shake their hand one week, or get angry because someone didn’t respond promptly to an e-mail, this is very counter cultural.
When I read this passage, it says to me that when there is conflict that is having a difficult time being resolved, we don’t have a difference of opinion problem, we have a love problem. We can write others off so easily because we see people as expendable. If they no longer bring anything positive to our lives then why not be their adversary. We write each other off for being democrats or republicans or for not doing communion the way we think it should be done or for being wealthy or poor. This unfortunatly is a very American way to see the world, after all, we are a culture of consumers and we want things our way.
Now I know I to serve people who love me; that is easy. But this passage forces me to ask, do I love, and can I serve even those people that don’t like me. Unfortunately, as a pastor you have to live in the knowledge that even if you are God’s perfect man for the hour and a very magnetic personality that at any given time there are at least 25% of people that are ambivalent toward you and 5% to 10% that flat out don’t like you or at the very least don’t agree with decisions you make.
So I find myself challenged here in this text to look those in the eye that don’t care for me and serve them just the same. To pray that God would teach me to love not just those that love me, but those that don’t. I reckon this too is part of abundant living. Probably the hard part.
It probably bears mentioning that I have zero chance of doing this under my own power. The ability to love those that don’t love us is a supernatural one and comes only by way of the Holy Spirit because it requires a mental transformation, a “mind transplant” to see them the way Jesus sees them. To be honest this may be one of the most difficult tasks that we as Christians face.
So my prayer today is…
God help me to love people and value them for not only who they are but who they can be. Help me to see past the physical flesh and blood and see the spirits and principalities that war against us. Help me to see people worth dying for instead of opposition. Help me to see where I can apply love and grace and show me how to do it. Remind me that I was once an enemy with you and yet you loved me anyway. Give me that mind which was in Christ Jesus Who loves no matter what. … AMEN