Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Ultimate Reward

THE ULTIMATE REWARD 

“‘I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’

“I am telling you now before it happens so that, when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.'” John 13:18-20 NIV.

Amazing, isn’t it, how often the experience of Jesus paralleled that of His ancestor, David! He often quoted David’s words, or the gospel writers quoted David to show how accurately Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecy. Jesus even cried out in the anguish of His abandonment on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Psalm 41 is one of the psalms which David possibly wrote at some time during the years of his flight from Saul’s murderous jealousy; or perhaps in his reign after a time of serious illness he describes how God sustained him in his weakness and vulnerability in spite of his enemies’ wish that he would die. Even the one closest to him had turned against him and he felt keenly the pain of betrayal.

In a time of intimate fellowship and a tender moment with His disciples before He left them. Jesus was face-to-face with His betrayer. He wanted him to know that He knew what he was about to do. It was a silent plea for Judas to think again. He was also warning the other eleven of what was soon to happen so that they would realize who He was when it happened.

He knew that His lesson on humility and loving service would be lost on Judas who was already so hardened against Jesus and his fellow disciples that the words of Jesus fell on the hard soil of his heart, just like the parable He had told about the sower and the seed. There were important things Jesus needed to tell His disciples before He left them but they would be wasted on the traitor. He hinted at the fact that Judas was no longer included in the company of His followers.

One thing Judas needed to hear, even if it was for the last time, that there is an inseparable union between a disciple, his Master and the Father. The mission Judas was about to embark on was not one on which he was sent by his erstwhile Master. By his own choice that connection had been broken and Judas was on his own, and would have to face the music of his actions alone.

On the other hand, those who went at the bidding of their Master, showed that they enjoyed the oneness with the Master and the Father which Jesus had already proved by His obedience to the Father’s will. To accept and submit to Jesus’ authority was to submit to the authority of the Father. Now Jesus takes it a step further, to accept the one whom Jesus sends is the same as accepting Him, and to accept Him is to accept the one who sent Him.

This puts the follower of Jesus in a very secure position. Although the Father required of Jesus obedience that went as far as giving Himself as a sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world, Jesus knew that it would not end there. He was destined for a position in the universe higher than any other. In the same way, although He may call His followers to deprivation and suffering in this life, He has guaranteed us eternal life because He rose from the dead and will never die again.

How tragic that Judas was willing to forfeit all of this for a reason only he knew. Was he trying to force Jesus to make a move against the Romans and fufill his and their dreams for a kingdom free from Roman oppression? Was he only motivated by greed and the bag of silver the religious hierarchy had offered him for handing Jesus over to them?

Whatever his reason, it could never match the grandeur of the future prepared for those who faithfully follow the Messiah. There may be trials to endure but, as the apostle Paul said, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ” 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18 NIV.

Jist Get The Job Done

JUST GET THE JOB DONE 

“When He had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ He asked them. ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord”, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.'” John 3:12-17 NIV.

How did the disciples feel as they watched their Master go from one to the other, kneeling on the floor and washing the grime from their feet and wiping them dry with a towel? How they must have winced when He untied their sandals, one by one and lifted their dirty feet into the water, each one’s conscience stabbing him because he should have been doing what Jesus was doing!

This was much more than a verbal lesson. This was a mental picture that played like a movie clip in their minds, over and over again — royalty bowing before commoners! It was not only what He did that plagued their minds but the way He did it, without a fanfare or in an attitude of “Look what I’m doing!” He simply did it as a matter of course, as though it were His duty to do it.

Yes, He did have a motive for doing the work of a slave. He did it because He loved them and because their feet were dirty and needed washing. He also did it as a visual aid so that they would clearly remember what it meant to follow Him.

Following Him as loyal disciples meant much more than doing great things like preaching and healing the sick — the things that gathered the crowds and made them ooh and aah in wonder. There were also the little things; the behind-the-scenes things that no-one else saw; that drew no crowds; that received no accolades; that were humble ministries that a slave was obliged to do, like washing His disciples’ feet or cooking breakfast for them on the beach.

Jesus did both kinds, not to draw attention to Himself but because they needed to be done to see to the needs of others and make their lives more comfortable. Isn’t that what following Jesus is all about? It’s not about office or position or recognition or rewards. It’s about doing the job because it needs to be done and someone has to do it. The accolades and rewards will come later, and from God, not from men.

Jesus’ plea that they do for one another what He did for them had nothing to do with setting up another ceremony for them to add to their religious rituals. He certainly did not come to earth for that! He wanted them to look beyond the end of their own selfish noses and to be alert to the needs of others. Whatever form that need took, whether it was for money or food or shelter or for dirty feet to be washed was of no consequence. “Just get on and do it,” was His instruction.

Isn’t that what following Jesus is all about? We all have gifts, talents and skills we can use to ease the burden that others carry. “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NIV. No one can meet the needs of the whole world but each one can help someone else by carrying his load.

Jesus’ instruction was simple. It’s not our job literally to wash the feet of everyone we come across and certainly not to perform a ceremony in the church. What would be the purpose of that? The really meaningful thing to would be to cook a meal for a sick friend, to take an old lady shopping because she cannot go on her own, to take care of the children when a harassed mother needs time out or to take a house-bound family to the beach when their vehicle is out of order.

It does not take much imagination to “wash” someone else’s “feet”, just a little observation and a little time given unselfishly to ease the load someone else is called to carry. But the boomerang rewards are amazing. The burden of selfish living becomes lighter and one has tiny glimpses of the heart of Jesus as He whispers, “Well done, son, daughter.”

Washed By The Word

WASHED BY THE WORD

“He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’

‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet, but my hands and my head as well!’

“Jesus answered, ‘Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.’ For He knew who was going to betray Him, and that is why He said not everyone was clean.” John 13:6-11 NIV.

Why are we going over this passage again? There is much gold to be mined from this incident and I am in no hurry to move on without digging a little deeper.

Yesterday we explored the thought that humble submission to the Master’s service is the heart of unity with Him. Unless we are one with Him, we cannot recognize Him in a disturbing disguise in the least of people and serve them in the disposition of our Messiah.

Peter displayed the typical attitude that resisted what Jesus wanted to do for Him. He thought he was being humble. Don’t we all when we are asked to receive the gracious ministry or generous gift of someone else, let alone what Jesus wants to do for us? We think that we are too unimportant to bother God with our insignificant needs. We can take care of them ourselves because God is busy looking after much bigger issues in the world!

What we think is humility is actually a slap in God’s face. It is not humility; it is stupidity, revealing our misunderstanding of God as our Father. A true father is never too busy to listen to his child’s insignificant needs. Because of his love, he stoops to the little one, wipes away the tears and kisses the bumps and bruises better. How much more tender and loving is our heavenly Father who heals our hurts and “washes our feet” with His loving ministry to all our needs.

It is pride that resists Him and arrogance that slams the door in His face when He comes in the disguise of a slave to embrace us with His love and to draw us into His heart to become one with Him. When we refuse to submit to the generosity and ministry of His servants, we are in reality refusing Him and saying, in effect, ‘I am self-sufficient and I don’t need you.’

Jesus’ gentle rebuke swung Simon Peter in the opposite direction. The Holy Spirit used an interesting title – Simon Peter. Was this a hint that Peter was in transition? He was still the old Simon, impetuous, vocal and volatile, but there was also an embryonic new Peter growing inside him. His spontaneous response to Jesus’ rebuke was to beg for an all-over wash, from head to foot because he desperately wanted to be one with his Lord. Peter might have been proud and did not understand but he was also honest and quick to correct, even over-correct his mistake.

Once again Jesus wove a spiritual lesson into a simple act of hospitality. Just as a bath was enough to keep the body clean, so His disciples were “bathed” by Jesus’ words. Their bodies were clean; it was only their feet — their daily “walk” in the world that needed to be refreshed. We have been made clean by the blood of Christ, forgiven and made righteous once and for all, but our walk needs to be washed daily by the water of the Word so that our fellowship with our Lord may be unhindered by sin.

What a beautiful picture of what the Word of God does for us! Paul used the same imagery to describe a husband’s loving sacrificial service to his wife.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.” Ephesians 5:26 NIV.

Here is the key to oneness in marriage — the wife humbly submitting to her husband’s loving and sacrificial service and continually separating herself to him as her one and only lover; and the key to oneness with Jesus. If we keep short accounts with Him and submit to His “washing”, we will be ready when He needs us to wash someone else’s feet.

 

Jesus In A Disturbing Disguise

JESUS IN A DISTURBING DISGUISE 

“He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’

‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet, but my hands and my head as well!’

“Jesus answered, ‘Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.’ For he knew who was going to betray Him, and that is why He said not everyone was clean.” John 13:6-11 NIV.

Don’t you just love Peter? No one can fault him for his passion!

But as for his discernment — he was so much in the moment! And so proud! Once again he was the one to react against Jesus’ action. John said nothing about the other disciples. His focus was on Peter. Was he having a little dig at him because of their constant rivalry?

The scene on the beach after the resurrection is another one of John’s little pokes at Peter! Jesus had reinstated Peter after his ignominious denial at His trial. Assured of his love, Jesus restored His commission to Peter to care for His sheep. Not satisfied with his own task, Peter questioned Jesus about John’s future. In polite terms Jesus told him to mind his own business! And John put that in his story!

Peter’s reaction to Jesus says a lot about his character. True humility submits to the person who is willing to serve in a humble task like the one that Jesus wanted to perform on him. The amazing thing is that this kind of submission bonds the served with the server. Was Jesus using this opportunity to test the attitude of His disciples to Him? Were they humble enough to allow Him to wash their feet? It was not difficult for Him to serve them, but how difficult was it for them to accept that service?

Peter’s reaction reveals that, in spite of his passionate love for Jesus, he misunderstood the meaning of His action. He thought that Jesus was humiliating Himself and, for him that was unthinkable. Watch how he addressed Jesus as Lord! Did he use that title purposely to make it clear to Jesus that he thought He was above what He was doing?

Jesus was quick to clarify the meaning of His action. ‘Peter, this is much more than just washing your feet. This is about restoring our oneness with each other.’ Humility responding to humility as the very essence of their relationship; Master and servant — Master serving and servant humbly receiving that service so that the servant, in turn, would serve with the same heart as the Master.

Unless Peter submitted to and received what Jesus was about to do, he would never be part of who Jesus was, the Son of God, yes, but the Ebed Yahweh, the Son who came to serve in the disposition of a slave — one who had no reputation to defend because He purposely made Himself nothing. How else could He empty Himself so completely that He could hang naked on a Roman execution stake for the sins of the world?

For three and half years Jesus had been painstakingly washing His disciples with His word. From the eternal perspective they were already clean, except for Judas because he had refused the word. They only needed the daily cleansing from the dust of their walk in a sinful world. Washing their feet was the symbolic cleansing they needed by allowing the word to wash them daily.

What amazing lessons they were learning in this single, simple loving act of hospitality. To set it up as a religious ritual has no meaning because it contributes nothing to our oneness of heart with Jesus. True “washing” that reflects our unity with Him would be to serve someone whom we consider “lower” than ourselves because Jesus said that, if we do it to the least of these, His brothers, we do it to Him.

As Mother Theresa said, the lowliest to whom we minister is Jesus in a disturbing disguise!

Someone Has To Wash Feet

SOMEONE HAS TO WASH FEET

“It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

“The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so 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.” John 13:1-5 NIV.

This is such a familiar story that we can almost recite it from memory. But we don’t only know the story; we also know the ceremony. Hasn’t someone at some time washed your feet? Some churches even incorporate it into their Easter services as a ritual.

So what is it all about? Since the roads were dusty and the people wore sandals, it was the householder’s responsibility to provide water to wash their feet. They either washed their own feet or it was done by a slave.

The disciples had just been arguing about who would be the greatest in Jesus’ new government (Luke 22:24). There was no slave in the house to do the job. They were certainly not about to wash each other’s feet! Jesus’ feet, perhaps, but that was all. No one made a move before supper, and still no one made a move after supper. Was Jesus waiting for one of them to get up and do the job or did He know them well enough not to expect any of them to do the courteous thing? Not one of them was willing to be humiliated by doing a slave’s work.

These guys needed to be taught something. What was His intention? To set up a new ritual for the church to follow? Not likely since He wasn’t interested in adding to the burden the Pharisees had already put on the people. Whatever Jesus did had to fit His nature — “gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29), and the nature of His yoke which was “light”.

How could Jesus, who was the Son of God, stoop down and do so menial a task? He could have left their feet dirty rather than do a slaves’ work. What Jesus did the disciples could not do for two reasons:

Firstly, He was secure in His identity. Had not He lived His entire public life out of the knowledge that He was the beloved Son of the Father? The Father had publicly affirmed Him at His baptism and given Him the mandate to represent Him in His life and work because Jesus had His unqualified approval. By washing His disciples’ feet He showed that He had nothing to prove and nothing to lose.

Secondly, He did it because He loved them. It did not matter as much to Him that He was the Son of the Most High God as that their feet were dirty and needed washing. That’s what love does — love meets someone else’s need at its own expense. Two simple reasons why it cost Him nothing to wash their feet! He did not have to swallow His pride, humiliate Himself or make a show of what He was doing. It was an act of hospitality any host would extend to his dinner guests except that, this time it was the host Himself who did the honours!

This was completely in line with the disposition of Messiah we see so clearly in Isaiah’s prophecies. He gives us glimpses of the “Ebed Yahweh” — the Servant of Jehovah — across the 66 chapters of his magnificent writing. He was the one upon whom the Spirit of the Lord rested (ch 11); He would bring justice without raising His voice or trampling the weak (ch42); He would be a polished arrow hidden in the Lord’s quiver (ch 49); He would be beaten, rejected and punished for the sins of His people (ch 52, 53) and He would bring freedom and healing to His people through the power of the Spirit (ch 61).

What was Jesus doing? He was showing them the heart of a true servant; not a ceremony to be performed but the disposition of a disciple that flowed out in loving service to whoever needed it. Simple but not easy! It depends on whether that disciple has anything to defend or to prove. If we, like Jesus, are secure in our identity in God and our love for His people, we can humbly “wash” one another’s feet as Jesus did without shame or embarrassment.