Chasing the Son
Editor’s Note: In a nod to our Presbyterian heritage, we regularly feature a column from a PMMA® chaplain in our newsletter. This month’s column comes from Dave Parker, chaplain at Salina Presbyterian Manor®.
Chasing the Son
As you read this, I would like you to consider it in the larger context of John 13:1-20 and the lessons Jesus taught His disciples about the value of servant leadership. So please take a moment; open your bibles and read the entire passage yourself. For now though, having just washed each of His disciples’ feet in preparation for His final Passover meal with them, Jesus said to them in verses 12-16,
“Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”
The timing of this lesson is what sets it apart. It took place just before they shared the Last Supper. It was Jesus’s final lesson to His followers before He suffered those fatal moments of betrayal that led to His crucifixion. Everything in Jesus’ life was planned by His Father, so we can assume that this event wasn’t a random act that Jesus pulled off the top of his head at the last minute.
We can also assume that because it was His final action before He would be given up by Judas, it was an imprint He intended to make on everyone in the room that would stick. How He wanted to be most remembered by His followers / ALL of us. Serving His apostles in the humblest of fashions by washing their feet. But His words tell us it was even more than that. It was how He expected them and us to live if we are to be His followers.
So much of what we think we know about our faith tends to be wrapped up in our works and our actions. Whether it’s going to church or doing good things for other, the focus somehow shifts to what “I’ve” done, or what “I” am doing, or what “I” plan to do in the future. And all too often it’s about making sure somebody knows exactly what “I’ve” done.
All the good things we do can be gracious acts of service to others. But when “I” gets in the way, generosity suddenly expects acknowledgment. What’s really wrong with that picture? We are called to serve, absolutely. But I’m afraid sometimes we tend to get things flipped. Service and works aren’t the source of salvation. Salvation through Christ alone, becomes the source of our desire to serve. And through the attitude of Christ, we will serve others in humility.
Jesus teaches that if our works are done with the intent of being a better person or trying to gain favor with God, then we’re turning the glory away from God and toward our self. Jesus tells us to look outside ourselves to find the strength to live a life of true service to others. Jesus says, look to Me. I will give you the strength. I will show you how to live a life of selfless service to others. Here’s my example. The only way to follow Me is to serve others humbly.
Jesus teaches us here that no one is above serving others. He doesn’t deny His character by serving these men. His actions reflect His true character. If Jesus can bow to wash the feet of His followers, who can deny that act of service themselves. True followers have to be all in, looking for those moment God gives us to serve His kingdom. He also teaches no one is below being served.
In this chapter alone, we are constantly reminded of Jesus’ impending death and His upcoming betrayal by Judas. He knew what was ahead. Yet Jesus washed the feet of every man in that room. He didn’t line them up in order of what He thought of them. How close He was to one or the other. Nothing about loyalty or any other criteria. He just began to wash their feet.
And He didn’t skip over Judas when it came his turn in line. He bent to wash the caked dirt and grime off of Judas’s feet, just like He did all the others. In this very moment, He walked His talk. He lived out His own words, “You have heard it said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”
Humility doesn’t discriminate. It sees everyone as children of God. Joint heirs with Christ to the kingdom. No good or bad. No black or white. No bias or prejudice. Not hatred or animosity. We are not here to judge. I know it can be hard. We all do it to one extreme or the other. Usually in a vain attempt to build our own self up. But if Christ didn’t condemn Judas in this moment then who are we to behave differently. Being human is a rotten excuse.
As His followers, Jesus calls us to go / serve others in my name. Then God will be glorified. He doesn’t call us to a life of leisure, but one of labor. The path He calls us to walk isn’t a yellow brick road lined with lollipops. The cost of discipleship is high, but the reward of His blessing is worth it. Of all the lessons Jesus could have left us with, He chose to pick up a towel and teach us to get our hands dirty serving His kingdom.