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.
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!”
I had a bizarre dream last night.
I was being discharged from the hospital. My room was filled with plastic bags of canned vegetables (why? who can even know) that I had to take to the car. However, after lugging them down the stairs (in my hospital gown), I found that my car had been moved. My friend offered to drive me around to look for the car, but in the process she kept not listening to my directions, turning the wrong way, and running into walls. I couldn’t find my car, and my arms ached from holding up the heavy bags. I was anxious to the point of frenzy, still woozy from my illness, and unwilling to surrender my burdens.
And then I woke up to the sound of my one year old crying. Now I am no dream analyst, but I can pretty much tell from this dream that I have some control issues. And some feeling-out-of-control issues. Starting my morning in this manner left me feeling a bit jittery, and like there was something I NEEDED to do, a small alarm ringing in the back of my mind.
And then today, I sat down to meditate on Jesus washing Peter’s feet. As I sat in the silence and imagined that moment, I began to have some of the same reactions as Peter.
But wait- Jesus, I serve YOU, you don’t serve me! Yes. This sounds good. And this is a principle I adopt more often than not when it comes to life as a disciple of Jesus. But it is totally backwards. When I view myself as a servant of God, and don’t first allow Jesus to minister to me, I am operating on human terms. My service to God is earning me favor. It keeps me feeling secure, righteous, and in control.
Laying down all my gold stars, all my good works, all my efforts, and allowing Christ to cleanse me is a powerful act of surrender. It is saying that I can’t keep things going smoothly on my own. There are too many cans of vegetables (I know- it’s bizarre- but let’s roll with the metaphor) and the car keeps moving. I will never finish the task on my own. And I am not meant to. Because if it were possible for me to be good enough on my own, then Jesus sacrifice for me would be a cosmic waste of time. And oh how I am in need of that sacrifice. I need the redemption. I need to be forced to admit that I can’t do it all by myself. I need to be willing to be humble enough to allow God to minister to my soul- my heart, my needs.
The martyr on the Cross should always remain Christ. When I look at my life and realize that that I am casting myself in the role of suffering servant, it’s time for a reality check. For if I can’t humble myself and allow Christ to wash my feet, how can I possibly accept the enormity of his sacrifice for me? If I am unwilling to first be ministered to by Christ, then those who see my efforts will never see God shining through them, only the increasingly strident acts of a pretty good human.
If I keep trying to be good enough, responsible enough, DO enough to keep my life running smoothly, I will inevitably fail. The truth is, we aren’t in control of our lives. Sooner or later, something will happen that will prove to us beyond all doubt that WE are not in charge. And when that happens, if all of our trust and valor is built upon our own resources, our defenses will crumble. However, if we continually seek to submit to the tender ministrations of Christ, then we know the One who holds our future. And we are able to stand in trust that God is sovereign, and that God is in control. Humility leads to trust, and trust leads to a deeper, truer life.