“Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
“Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,“Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).”
Mary Magdalene would’ve been the last one I would have chosen to be the first witness. If it was me, I would have gone straight to Caiaphas, or gave Pilate a good scare–“I told you so.” He didn’t go to the Temple and to show off his resurrection power. He zapped no one.
It fascinates me, but Jesus didn’t show off his power. Instead Mary was chosen, the harlot, and the one who he cast out seven demons. Simple, humble Mary. The one whom he forgave. And he comes quietly, and gently to her.
Brutally killed, taken off the cross and carefully laid in a tomb–but Jesus comes to life!
The most powerful testimony of truth of the Gospel rests here in the resurrection. Our faith hinges on this. If there is no resurrection, Jesus’ bones still lay in a tomb, and we are still dead in our sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)
There is so much in this passage; the implications are enormous.
“What the world calls virtue is a name and a dream without Christ. The foundation of all human excellence must be laid deep in the blood of the Redeemer’s cross and in the power of his resurrection.”
God’s temple was now filled with an evil darkness. King Manasseh made the Lord’s holy place a fountain of sin and filth. Instead of holiness, it was an evil place.
He brought in dark things that were twisted, perverted and clearly forbidden.
“Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.”
2 Chronicles 33:9, ESV
His own darkness was now encouraged by others, it became accessible, available and promoted:
The high places were rebuilt throughout the land.
Altars to Baal rebuilt, using images of wood.
In the holy temple, altars to the “starry host,” astrology, plain and simple.
Human sacrifice of his own sons to Molech, a false god. Murder.
He practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists.
Evil was being encouraged and something wicked was replacing all that was good and true. The analysis of Manasseh’s policies was way beyond disturbing. Of all the kings of Judah, he was the most sinful and the most corrupt. He was at the bottom of the barrel.
The Hebrew word for “led astray” can be translated seduced.
Manasseh was an incredibly immoral man, a king who ruled for 40 years. “He did all he could to pervert the national character, and totally destroy the worship of the true God; and he succeeded.” (Clarke)
It’s believed that he put Isaiah to death by cutting him in two.
Moreover Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides his sin by which he made Judah sin, in doing evil in the sight of the LORD.
1 Kings 21:16
But then something happened.
And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen. Therefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon.
2 Chronicles 33:10-11
Assyria came knocking on Manasseh’s door. I think there was a certain mercy here, but also discipline. Manasseh had “hooks,” inserted through his jaw and out of his mouth. Like a fish he was led to Babylon, a trophy of the power of the army of Babylon.
It was from a dark dungeon that Manasseh cried out to the Lord and repented.
There’s a Jewish fable that when Manasseh cried out to God the angels boarded up the windows in heaven. They wanted to block out his prayer so God wouldn’t be able to hear. But God, rich in mercy, bored a hole in front of His throne to hear Manasseh’s desperate cry.
The Lord’s intention was to forever show His kindness and grace given to the most awful repentant sinner.
I believe that Manasseh was the “Prodigal Son” of the Old Testament.
God is not at a loss when He moves to bring us back to Himself. He can woo or whip. He can draw or drive. He can work rapidly or slowly, as He pleases. In other words, He is free to be God! And in His own way, at His own pace, He brings us back.
“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee was standing and praying like this about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’”
13 “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other, because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
He despised others. As a Pharisee he prided himself as a holy person; he stood before God and congratulated himself. I believe that self-righteousness has many levels. You can be blatant and obvious about it, or it can be subtle and hidden. But we must understand that the father sees and knows. Notice the “all” here in Isaiah 64:6:
“We are all like one who is unclean, all our so-called righteous acts are like a menstrual rag in your sight. We all wither like a leaf; our sins carry us away like the wind.”
Hmm. A menstrual rag? You got to be kidding!
We often advance ourselves by demeaning those who struggle hard with their sin–there are those who see and somehow know that they’re superior. We don’t come out and say so; but we’ve arrived— but guess what— God (and scripture) know better than this.
But we’re not dealing here with a hidden self-righteousness. The Pharisee truly believes that he is different from the tax-collector. He stands and doesn’t kneel. He feels comfortable and confident in the holy presence of God Almighty. He’s not like the others. He is sure that he’s holy.
The tax-collector was brutally honest about himself.
He didn’t need anyone to tell him how sinful he was—he understood his own wickedness. Jesus’ story reveals God’s love for those who know that they’re twisted inside. Notice the heart of the tax-collector:
“He stood afar off” which showed his awareness of his separation from God.
“He wouldn’t even raise his eyes to heaven,” which declared his humility in the presence of God.
He kept “striking his chest,” which tells us of a deep pain over his sin against God.
He prayed, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’ This describes his desperate heart.
These both came to pray, but that is all they had in common.
The Pharisee came to the temple to show off his righteousness, the tax-collector out of a terrible despair. It strikes me that the text in verse 11 says the Pharisee “began praying to himself.” It seems that his prayer never really met God—he was proud and showy, doing the things God hates (Prov. 29:23).
Things really came to ahead in verse 14. That’s the critical point of the entire story—“one went down to his house justified rather than the other.” Wow! What a statement. One professionally religious man, sure of his holiness, the other a sinful sinner, who came humble and broken. One showed off his faith—boasting with a legalistic swagger. The other desperate and desolate, completely undone.
But it was the tax-man who became righteous in the eyes of God.
Humility is the foundation of the kingdom of Jesus. In Matthew 5:3-4 makes a lot of sense—to be “poor in spirit” and to “mourn” are the bedrock of a Christian’s discipleship. To be justified (made right) was a gift. He didn’t try to earn it, and there wasn’t a probationary period. The tax-collector now became righteous; the Pharisee carried his sin.
How much do you love Jesus? This parable looks at the heart of the believer, the person who has been incredibly forgiven of everything–past, present and future. And it’s here we see a woman whose heart is broken by her sin, and she discovers Jesus’ grace, and tremendous mercy.
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
44 “Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.”
47 “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Jesus has been invited to Simon’s home. He’s a Pharisee, and at this point they haven’t quite banded together to attack Jesus, it seems that there were still some Pharisees who were true seekers.
The text jumps right in and we see Jesus reclining at a table (the Jewish people didn’t use chairs–pillows were used instead.) At a feast like this people who weren’t officially invited could come in to stand in the back and listen in on the conversation. (That seems awkward.)
Suddenly a woman enters the room.
She’s described as “a woman of the city,” which is a code word for “a sinner, or a harlot.” (Let your imagination roll that one around.) She comes with a definite purpose, for she brings a jar of quite expensive perfume with her.
The passage reveals that she’s on her knees, weeping on Jesus’ feet, and rubbing her tears with her hair, and pouring out the perfume. She’s kissing his feet. She’s obviously a broken person—someone who knows who Jesus is, and who understands who she is, and how deep sin has destroyed her.
At this point Simon is deeply offended, and probably embarrassed by what’s happening. But he also assumes that Jesus isn’t who he’s saying he is. “How dare does this man let an unclean person even touch Him!” But Jesus understands everything. His parable is short (just two verses) and it’s directed at Simon; and it’s a no-brainer.
The interpretation is obvious: the man who owes the most will love the most.
Jesus accentuates Simon’s breach of protocol. The Lord deftly explains the entire situation and Simon is busted. He’s put on the spot and Jesus has made his point. It’s all so obvious. The essence of the story is clear. How much do you love the Master?
Do you fully fathom how much sin Jesus has forgiven you?
(Or maybe you’re a Simonite?)
Perhaps you’re someone who doesn’t quite accept what’s real? The Bible tells us repeatedly that no one is righteous. No one. Scripture has a very low opinion of the righteousness of men. (That should shatter your thinking.)
“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”
Isaiah 64:6, KJV
The Hebrew word for “filthy rags” is extremely graphic–literally it means “a menstruating cloth.” It was something that a woman used before Tampax came along. How very descriptive. Do we even have the slightest idea what that means? Are our good deeds that bad?
Yes they are. Isaiah announces that’s exactly how God sees our best attempts to find acceptance apart from grace. It often seems we try to please Him by doing the best we can, but that isn’t sufficient. We always fall short and mess up.
How does understanding this change our discipleship? I’ll let you be the judge on this on this one.
“He loved us not because we are lovable, but because He is love.”
“Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 “But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? 41 We are punished justly because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 “And he said to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The pain was incredible, but I know that deep down I deserved to die. But not like this. Never like this. I was almost out of my mind with fear. What they were doing to me was terrifying.
You must understand that I was a common thief. I had stolen a loaf of bread when I was eight years old and that’s how it all got started for me. It more or else got bigger and easier. I knew how to steal and I was quite good at it. I was Jacob, the master thief!
When I was finally caught, they sentenced me to die. I supposed it was inevitable. I fault no one but myself as I knew what I was getting into. As I dragged my beam up to Golgotha, it was really strange but I suddenly remembered a verse from the scripture and it really did unsettle me.
It’s a terrible thing to die this way. There were three of us, nailed to the wood and lifted up between heaven and earth. Jesus was nailed to the middle cross, not that it really mattered; all three of us were going to die today.
Many hope for a simple and easy death, maybe in their sleep–but that’s not going to happen to us.
The third man could only mock, he was afraid, and I suppose he just echoed those Pharisees who didn’t really understand. But I knew better. I knew who this other man was, I had heard all the stories. Deep down I knew that this man on the center cross was the Messiah.
A crowd had gathered to watch us die. The Romans in their wonderful ingenuity had made a sign that they nailed above Jesus’ head, and it declared to everyone that Jesus was “the king of the Jews.” Even as he was dying, they found a way to malign him and irritate the crowd.
The other man being crucified continued to mock Jesus, and it infuriated me.
Why I defended him I don’t know for sure.
But I understood. Jesus was murdered out of the envy and jealousy of the Pharisees. He didn’t deserve to die like this, but He was hated, and who can confront these religious men without becoming a victim. Jesus had repeatedly crossed the line, so now they were now putting him to death. It seemed evil was really winning today.
I saw the soldiers throwing dice for Jesus’ clothes. He was now being mocked by them as well, even as he was dying on a brutal cross.
But all of a sudden it all made perfect sense, he really was the Messiah, and these bastards were killing him. Crucifixion was starting to work on me now. I began to choke on my words, and it was getting hard to breathe.
“Jesus… please remember me. When your kingdom comes, please let me be a part of it.”
And as beaten as he was, he managed to turn and look directly at me. They had whipped and brutalized him, and yet he was still aware. His words were whispered now, but I understood. “I promise that today you will be with me in paradise.”
I was starting to spasm again, but the horror of death had left me. Some time had passed, and I could hear his breathing stop. But for the first time, I had peace. They used a spear on Jesus, but he was already dead.
The soldiers now came to the two of us, and they were carrying an ax to break our legs. It all had to do with the coming festival, and the Pharisees wanted us dead. When they swung that ax I knew a pain that I could never describe. My own death came quickly after that.
I was suddenly standing in paradise, whole and complete, and loved.
Someone was standing before me. He was shining I remember, and I knew he was powerful; stronger, and he was more glorious than anyone I had ever met. It was crazy but somehow I knew that he was an angel and he had been sent to meet me. It’s funny, but I realized that somehow I really did belong. Me–a dirty rotten thief.
Jesus had promised me, he had pronounced me righteous, me of all people. I suddenly had a joy that I could never explain. I really was a part of the Kingdom that was beyond anything I had ever known. And all I can really say about this was that I was privileged to die with him. That is all I could claim. I simply believed him and asked if somehow I could be part of his eternal rule.
I simply asked and He gave me everything.
Cover Art: “Christ on the Cross between Two Thieves,” by Peter Paul Rubens
Prayer can often be just a nice religious duty, that makes us feel warm and fuzzy. But such prayer does not suit a disciple who is tired of religion and is seeking authenticity. There are few models who can be our guides.
That is one of the reasons why we need elders in our fellowships; they have been through so much, they can anchor us to all that is real. As elders, they probably had lessons in prayer.
We often will theologically play on the periphery, and cleverly deceive others and ourselves. My own heart gets pretty creative as I display self-righteousness. (I should win an Academy Award as ‘best actor.’) But Jesus insists on us becoming real. You might say that really is the prayer that touches his heart.
When you talk with Jesus, do you truly talk to Him?
Do you have a real awareness that you are really talking with Him?
Is it the real you that fellowships with the ‘real’ God?
The following is an excerpt from A Diary of Private Prayer, by the Scottish theologian, John Baillie, 1886-1960:
Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought today be of You, let my first impulse be to worship You, let my first speech be Your name, let my first action be to kneel before You in prayer.
For Your perfect wisdom and perfect goodness:
For the love with which You love mankind:
For the love with which You love me:
For the great and mysterious opportunity of my life:
For the indwelling of your Spirit in my heart:
For the sevenfold gifts of your Spirit:
I praise and worship You, O Lord.
Yet let me not, when this morning prayer is said, think my worship ended and spend the day in forgetfulness of You. Rather from these moments of quietness let light go forth, and joy, and power, that will remain with me through all the hours of the day;
Keeping me chaste in thought:
Keeping me temperate and truthful in speech:
Keeping me faithful and diligent in my work:
Keeping me humble in my estimation of myself:
Keeping me honorable and generous in my dealings with others:
Keeping me loyal to every hallowed memory of the past:
Keeping me mindful of my eternal destiny as a child of Yours.
“Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses: ‘Why is this bush not burned up?’
“The strength and stability of these believers can be explained only by the miracle of God’s sustaining grace. The God who sustains Christians in unceasing pain is the same God — with the same grace — who sustains me in my smaller sufferings. We marvel at God’s persevering grace and grow in our confidence in Him as He governs our lives.”
— John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace”
All of us know a brother or sister who seems to be a target of an undue amount of suffering. It seems like they’re always in the furnace. All we can do really is to shake our heads and then give them double honor for their faith in God’s grace and providence.
Ministering to these extreme sufferers can be a real challenge.
What can we say to those who seem to be on “God’s anvil?” How can we bless those who are in unbelievable pain?
Perhaps a very simple word of calm encouragement is the only real way to touch their hearts. They often don’t need another teaching or a link to a website. In the midst of some awful difficulties, I once had a dear brother who gently and carefully quoted Philippians 1:6 to me over and over whenever we met and whenever we parted:
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
It was a precious thing that he did. I didn’t mind it all, as a matter of fact, I grew to like it. At first, I’ll admit it was strange, but my faith began to ‘mix’ with the Word and I began to believe it. It’s now my favorite verse in the Bible.
He refused to preach or counsel me. The light he carried was more than enough.
He had the maturity to see what God was doing and to make himself available to God on my behalf. Perhaps that patience he showed should become our own method of choice? I look forward to seeing him someday, someway. (If you hear someone quoting Philippians 1:6 in heaven, that will probably be Fred.) 🙂
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.”
A keyword in this verse is “rejoice.”
It is a good reminder that the pain we feel is not the end. These trials have a limited duration (although it seems far away). There is coming a day when we can navigate through these issues and come out on the other side. “We will shine like the stars” (Daniel 12:3).
Much wisdom is needed in our ministry to disproportionate sufferers. We should have a fear of intruding on the work the Lord is doing. We must be patient and humble in this matter. There is no rushing God, after all, it’s His work. Most importantly we must be very much ‘present’ for our friend.
But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance,
A “word” spoken out of place can cause even more ‘heartache’ for the sufferer. Let us be careful. At times it’s better not to say anything, and that’s alright. Job’s friends were best sitting in the ash heap, saying no word.
The Lord God gives me the right words to encourage the weary. Each morning he awakens me eager to learn his teaching.
Isaiah 50:4, CEB
Ask the Father to guide you. Be gentle. Be there. He will give you, in His time, a good word for them.
“And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice.“
1 Samuel 18:11, ESV
“And Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he eluded Saul so that he struck the spear into the wall. And David fled and escaped that night.“
1 Samuel 19:10
King Saul has gone mad.
We need to understand that David had a different heart. We see that he would leave Saul’s spear in the wall. Remember that David was the giant killer, the boy who faced Goliath. I don’t really think that David was really afraid, he knew God’s protective hand was on him and this made the difference.
Saul’s spear shows up later in David’s life, and it becomes a vital component in his growth as Israel’s next king.
But David doesn’t know it yet.
1 Samuel 26 is David’s second encounter with the spear of Saul.
The scene is in the wilderness and David’s on the run. Now the badlands are a good place to hide as any Western movie knows. I think David had his scouts and I suppose that there were also men who knew every rock and cave in that wasteland. They were hiding from Saul.
“So David and Abishai entered the encampment by night, and there he was—Saul, stretched out asleep at the center of the camp, his spear stuck in the ground near his head, with Abner and the troops sound asleep on all sides.”
1 Samuel 26:7
Sneaking into Saul’s camp was a bold and audacious move. Saul was sleeping and scripture says that David’s companion desperately wanted to kill Saul, but David refused, David, looking through the darkness lighted on Saul’s spear. Perhaps he remembered back to when Saul tried very hard to kill him.
He avoided that spear a long time ago, and now he escapes it again.
The tables have completely turned. Given a chance to end King Saul’s life, he refused; he would not kill him. When you think about it, many problems would’ve been solved, and David would take his rightful place as Israel’s new king.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 12:21, ESV
The Greek word for “overcome” is νικάω which can be translated as “to conquer or to come forth victorious.” It is also used when someone is arraigned before a court of law but wins the case.
Inherent in this definition is the idea of a test that one passes with “flying colors.”
To follow Jesus means to entirely reject the spear. It’s not for you. Never.
“We win by tenderness. We conquer by forgiveness.”
Frederick W. Robertson
Like David, we are to trust the Father. We’re to be secure in His timing. And yes, we each must use kindness and brokenness to overcome dark things. When you think about it, Jesus also faced evil without defending Himself. The spear showed up again and we see that our Savior allowed it to pierce His side on the cross.
You must leave the spear in the wall. You mustn’t use the spear when it seems you can wield it at the perfect moment, And like Jesus you need to allow it to save your enemies from their sin.
These three spears are evidence you “have God’s heart.”
“They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
(John 8:7, NLT)
“None knows the weight of another’s burden.”
As believers, we must discern motives and false doctrine. We’re to be constantly aware of people and issues that swirl around us–of this, there is no doubt, we mustn’t be ignorant. This is a healthy “discernment.” But we must learn that having discernment isn’t a way that passes out a ‘guilty’ penalty. We are ‘seeing’ things these things–not to pass judgment, but that we might pray clearly and earnestly, and grow into His love for the weak.
But to pass out a guilty sentence is God’s exclusive jurisdiction.
It’s far beyond our ‘pay grade.’ He is the final judge in everything. He judges justly and lovingly. He alone knows and understands everything very clearly. We don’t.
And yet how foolish we are. Do we really have the ability to pronounce a penalty to someone else? Could it be when we decide to throw rocks at certain people we’re in terrible danger of forfeiting our own salvation? “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:15.)
We discern, not to pass judgment, but to pray more clearly and effectively. What you see or sense is for the prayer closet, not before a judge’s bench.
(If you have a ‘rock’ in your hand, you are in definite danger.)
“Don’t judge others, or you will be judged. 2 You will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you.
We really don’t have a problem with worldly people. We understand that they are lost in their sins, terribly wrapped up in their own personal darkness, and that should definitely disturb us. We must point to the Blood of Christ that forgives us. We share the good news of true repentance and faith. His Spirit teaches us to be witnesses of His love to everyone we meet.
But in light of this, isn’t strange that almost all of our judgment is somehow directed at other believers! Why?! For some strange reason, it ‘seems,’ we think that we must pronounce guilt and (by doing so) we declare our own “holy” attitude to our place in the Body. In a weird sense, we think we have the supreme calling to condemn someone else’ walk, and by doing so exalt our own!
“The life of faith is a struggle enough in a broken world without us complicating it for other believers.”
It just may come as a shock to some, but it’s extremely difficult to throw stones at someone when we are busy “washing” their feet.
“The nature and end of judgment or sentence must be corrective, never vindictive; it is always for healing, and never for destruction.”
Perhaps when we judge others, we reveal that we don’t understand what ‘real’ discipleship with Jesus is? Somehow it seems, we really aren’t quite grasping the immensity of His grace on guilty people? Do we really understand His profound love for the fallen? “God so loved the World…” Have we had any idea how patient He is with us? Do we doubt His ability to correct others? (These are awfully hard questions.)
“Judge not lest you be judged.” (Jesus’ words really do scare me sometimes.)
Certainly, I intend to confront the darkness. “You are the light, a city set on a hill!” I am His salt and light and I do shine into this dark night. But that is His doing, not mine. I do not generate light on my own. The Bible declares me as ‘self-righteous’ when I try. I am a broken person, who is just starting to understand the scope of my own brokenness and weaknesses. I’m starting to realize I’m not in a position to judge someone else. I’m not quite healed myself yet and I must not think I can point to someone else as being worse than me.
Quite simply, I can’t throw ‘rocks’ at other believers anymore.
I can no longer pass out any condemnation from my own limited understanding. My chief concern right now is to be a humble, earnest Christian who is always ready to forgive those who, in their awful sin and confusion, are hurting others. I’m beginning to see that my calling is to be; a simple servant to my brothers and sisters, nothing more, and nothing less.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”
Chapter 13 always rocks my world. I visualize this, like a fly on the wall, watching it happen–and then I replay it over, and over in my mind. It always unravels me. Why does this have to happen? What does this passage tell me about Jesus and his kingdom? (John 13). Why can’t I just walk away from it, and leave it be?
Jesus made himself a slave on purpose.
Or perhaps he was always a slave all along, and we just didn’t realize it? Foot-washers were pretty much regarded as sub-human, mindless drones who mechanically performed a necessary duty. The lowest of the low, the very least of the least. (Today they’re the burger flippers and the pool cleaners.)
But Jesus took that role on himself, he laid aside his garments and his Godhood. (They landed in a pile in the corner of the room). When he knelt down to scrub feet (making sure he got between the toes), it was Deity serving man. This God/rabbi intentionally did this, not reluctantly or halfheartedly–but carefully.
He was their teacher, and custom demanded he enjoys the prerogatives of that position. But he wouldn’t, and didn’t. He mustn’t. As I stress over this, I must conclude he really was their “teacher,” but not in the way I expect. What he was doing on his knees, was instructing them in the art of loving each other.
He showed us a real leader in action.
And isn’t making disciples all about loving (and washing) someone else more than ourselves? We get things turned around sometimes–we think that spiritual authority is moving up when it’s all about going down. We elevate our pastors and elders, maybe subconsciously–and human nature lets it happen, and then we’re amazed why our leaders struggle so.
Leaders function best when they wash between the toes.
There was a point in Jewish history when the people actually demanded that God would give them a king, instead of a judge (1 Samuel 8:5-9). God warned them that this wasn’t in his plans–but they insisted. They had to have one, everyone else did. We still must have celebrities, and then we wonder why they short-circuit on us. Who can resist the privilege, and the limelight of the platform?
The Church was never meant to operate like this.
That’s what Jesus said. Instead, it’s we who’ve turned it upside down. It’s we who insist on turning our pastors into minor celebrities. We assert that they take on the role of a “king” (albeit, a little one maybe). Perhaps leaders who stumble and fall do so because we want them to be front and center? Who can handle the privilege and the adulation? I know I can’t.
Peter was classic Peter.
It seems that whenever he resists, he gets rebuked. He makes it quite clear that Jesus will never wash feet–that Jesus will never use a basin or towel and serve him like this. It was outrageous. Unacceptable. It didn’t fit in Peter’s personal theology. He had no room for Jesus the slave. (Perhaps he knew that to follow meant he would have to do the same thing? IDK).
Jesus still washes His people. He has not changed.
He sits us down and takes off our shoes and socks, and scrubs us clean. And we hate it. But to be washed by him is a condition of our discipleship. Every follower must be clean, and he continues his work to this day. We sin daily, even as his own, and he cleans us up–and somehow that really bothers us.
The gifts of leadership are one way of washing feet. At least that’s what our leaders were designed to do. That’s Jesus’ way of doing things. But it seems we’ve adopted Peter’s attitude, and embraced the ‘pre-king’ thinking of Israel. We need our celebrities, we want our kings. We simply can’t imagine it any other way.
“The very first thing which needs to be said about Christian ministers of all kinds is that they are “under” people as their servants rather than “over” them (as their leaders, let alone their lords). Jesus made this absolutely plain. The chief characteristic of Christian leaders, he insisted, is humility not authority, and gentleness not power.”