“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.”
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
April 14, 2022, Words By: Rev. Sarah Wiles, Image By: Wayne Forte
It’s Thursday. We have followed Jesus this far. He has been anointed with beauty, spoken of death, and his betrayal has begun. Tonight, he kneels and washes his friends’ feet–all of them, yes, including Judas.
I have to confess I’m pretty allergic to asking for help. I will struggle with a jar lid for a full five minutes before handing it over, and even then, it’s reluctantly. I will arrive home, arms overloaded with work bag, lunch box, coffee mug, groceries, mail; it’ll be slipping out of my hands, falling behind me in a little trail. But will I let someone else carry it? No. No, I will not. The same with too much work or emotional baggage. Will I let someone else carry it? No. No, I will not.
I relate to Peter. I don’t need any help washing my feet! I’ll do it myself, or I’ll just have dirty feet. That’s fine. But no way are you kneeling down and doing it for me, thank you very much.
“Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Jesus, why do you have to be so difficult? I like my illusions of self-sufficiency and independence. I’m rather attached to them. But Jesus, as he so often does, interrupts my illusions and attachments, invites me into another way of being.
To shift gears for just a minute, too often I have heard this passage not just as a call, but a demand for service. It is used to glorify those who already have too much to do. It is used to further oppress those who already pour out their lives in service. Jesus gave it all. So should you. If you don’t, then you’d better feel guilty, because Jesus is all about endless sacrifice and you should be, too.
But this year, for the first time, I noticed the verse before the one where Jesus actually kneels. “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God…” That changes things. Jesus is not some superhero strongman who can give and give and give and give and give and never be diminished. He is the beloved of God. His source is endless love. His ultimate home is endless love. And he knows it.
He bends down not out of a steadily emptying fund of service, but out of an endlessly refilling stream of life. He knows he is loved down in his bones. And, I believe, he needed that. To be who he was, what he was, he needed not just the fact of being loved, but the intimate experience of it. He is not independent. He is dependent on love given and poured out for him.
So, why do I imagine that I should, or even can, be self-sufficient? If Jesus needed to experience love, what makes me think I’m somehow more independent than he is?
We need to wash others’ feet. Yes. We have work to do. Yes. But we cannot do it until we are rooted down to the very core of our being in our own belovedness. We come from endless love, and we are going to endless love. And, even better, God not only loves us, but likes us. Can we soften into that? Can we let down our guard and allow others to be as Christ to us and let them help and serve us? Can we see Christ kneeling at our feet, taking one gently in his hands, doing for us what we’re perfectly capable of doing for ourselves, washing us, and gazing at us in love? Do we dare?
Dwelling Among Us
Ask for help today. Let someone else embody the love of God for you and meditate on your dependence on that love.