3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. (John 13: 3-17)
I thought of that last night that we were together. It was wonderful. It was a cool evening and the breeze was blowing into the room through the open windows. All of our family was there and all of Jesus’ friends were all together at a table near the door. It was the Passover festival and we so enjoyed ourselves. Jesus sat next to me. He had been unusually pensive, almost as if he were grieving. Several times he looked around the room with a faraway look in his eyes. He put his hand on my shoulder and then he got up and went over and joined his friends. They had all been through so much and they finally seemed to be enjoying themselves. I turned back to the table to talk to the family and when I looked again, Jesus was kneeling down and washing the disciples’ feet.
I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. Most had seen him as a leader of those men that could at times be almost over-zealous. But the one I knew was kneeling there—compassionate, loving, almost a servant. I realize now that he was showing us who we should be. He was showing us how to love one another, how to put others first, how to see God in others’ eyes. I feel so blessed to be able to say how much I learned from him. Many parents cannot say that. I learned to love; I learned to be gentle and compassionate; I learned to serve. I am certain that future generations will picture this night and see only Jesus and his disciples. But it was Passover. We were all there. We were all watching, although we were careful not to disturb the certain intimacy that was in that moment. We did not understand in the moment what the next day would hold but we knew that this was a special time and a special place.
I didn’t go with them when they left and walked down to the Garden. I wish I had. I know that I couldn’t have done anything, but maybe I could have comforted him or something. There in the garden, Jesus was arrested. It was said that one of the disciples had betrayed him, pointing him out to the guards. I didn’t concentrate too much on that. All I know is that they took him away that night and I would never be able to hold him again. Now I know that what happened that evening would spark the change in the world. What happened that evening to that baby that I held, the baby that I lifted out of that hay-filled stall so many years ago, would begin a sequence of events that I know now was God’s way of leading us all through the story, leading us all home.
In that Garden, Jesus surrendered not his innocence but his control. And only in surrendering will we know what God intends for our life. I see now that if Joseph and I had not surrendered so long ago, giving ourselves to whatever it was God had in store, that I would not have been blessed with this life that I’ve known. But, more importantly, the story would have been different. Each of us has a chance not to write our own chapter but to be a part of a story that is already beautifully written. What Jesus taught me was that each of us has to do this. God did not create us as robotic characters following the one in front of us. Instead, God placed a tiny piece of the Godself in each of us. It’s called free will. God created us to choose. And then on our journey of faith, we are asked to choose to surrender it back to God so that we will finally understand what it means to be loved by God.
It’s not what you do for God; it’s what God does for you. Instead of trying to love God, just let God love you. (Richard Rohr)
FOR TODAY: What is God asking you to surrender so that you can be a part of the story?
Peace to you in this often-hectic week,