Maybe you’re like me … you can do it all on your own (or at least you’d like to think you could).
That’s the way I am, imitating Wonder Woman. I don’t really think I was always this way, but somewhere along the way, I decided that since I have do most things on my own, I can’t expect someone else to help out, even when I need it the most.
Picture this: My apartment is two flights up. I have two arms and six bags of groceries- or a trunk-full of suitcases. And it’s raining.
Have you been there? There’s no one else around to help you out, so you stiff-upper-lip it and get the job done. It’s not really that bad, it’s just the way things are.
So what about the times when a well-meaning person comes along and offers to lend me a hand? Relief? Joyful shouts of jubilation? Nope. I resist. I kindly let the person know that I’ve got things under control. (Yeah, right) I can handle things on my own. Really, I can. I mean it. Now please leave me alone to figure this thing out.
Being a single woman in this world is a wonderful thing; don’t get me wrong. I love life, but I’m still figuring it out. Why do I resist the people who try to help me out? And what about the places in life where it really matters … the heavy and hard things in life that I wasn’t meant to go through alone. I’m not talking groceries and heavy suitcases; I mean those issues to deal with where I desperately need someone else to step in. And why do I get the sneaking suspicion that somehow, you do the exact same thing? You resist asking for help, even though your heart is longing for someone to come alongside you? You’re longing to just come clean, but your pride holds you back.
At some level, we’re all like this. In our self-reliance and pride, we resist help, we resist love, and maybe it’s when we need it and want it the most. There’s a great picture of this in the first chunk of John 13. It’s an offer of service and a demonstration of love.
[Jesus shows His love to us by making us clean] Jesus has gathered His disciples for the last time. They have come together to celebrate the Passover. Jesus knows that His time is short, and He decides to show these men who have followed Him for three years “the full extent of his love”. How? By doing what was normally left to servants, women, or children. He took off His outer garment, wrapped a towel around His waist and got down on His knees and washed their feet. He didn’t ask if someone else would do it, He just did it. He was the leader, but that didn’t matter. He just wanted to show the disciples that He loved them and He wanted to make them clean.
Now let me interrupt the story for a moment. Think about this: How would you demonstrate your love to someone, or to a group of people? What’s your “love language”? For me, that is an easy answer. I love words. The power they have to encourage, build up, and give life. I love to write, and I love to talk. I always have, and for me, it’s the most natural way for me to demonstrate love. What do you do? What did Jesus do?
Well, Jesus takes on the position of a servant to show love, to make the disciples clean, and to make them a part of Him. That same offer has been made to you and me; the love of Jesus has been shown to us. What was your reaction? Did you resist Him the way Peter did? Are you resisting Him now? You might be.
Wherever you are right now, just picture Jesus with you. At your computer, sitting next to you at your desk, or even sitting across the table from you in a coffee shop. He pushes His chair back, gets up and gets a tub of water. He unlaces your shoes, He takes off your stinky socks, and He’s holding your foot in His hands. Are you resisting yet? Are you squirming a bit? I am. You might already be His follower; you might be a part of Christ. But we all need to be cleaned from time to time. We all need to allow Jesus to make us clean.
But wait, there’s more!
[Jesus shows His love through us when we follow His example] You see, the story continues, and Jesus tells the disciples that even though they don’t understand it all yet, even though they don’t see the big picture, and that they’re still trying to figuring it out the same way that you and I are- they are supposed to do just as He did.
They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. So, whom do you imitate? Is it a celebrity? A singer? A superhero? A family member or just someone you’ve read about? Whoever it is, it means that you love them. If it’s Jesus, it will manifest itself in actions that are just the way He would do things. As we demonstrate our love for God by imitating Him, God is showing His love for people through us.
Okay, so we’re all supposed to go around washing people’s feet? Well, no, not exactly (although I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the foot-washing ceremonies I’ve heard about). Maybe we’re supposed to be good servants. That’s the way I was told to interpret the passage. You see, Jesus was a leader, and yet He volunteers to be the servant. So, maybe the point is that whenever we’re given positions of leadership, we’re supposed to be serving the people we lead. Sure, I can go along with that. And if you’re ready to leave it at that, just stop reading here, it won’t hurt my feelings.
This may be pushing the envelope, but I think there’s still more.
You see, Jesus said to do “just” as He had done – and what He did went way beyond washing feet and being humble. He was making people clean, and He was foreshadowing His death on the cross that would make it possible for people to be a part of Him. So how in the heck are we supposed to follow that example? How can we make people clean? I really wrestled with this until a few things hit me.
- Jesus’ prayer: Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth (John 17:17).
- Jesus says, Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. (John 15:3)
- In the beginning was the Word … and the Word became flesh (John 1:1-14).
- Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word … (Ephesians 5:25-26).
Here’s my interpretation of how we follow Jesus’ example. We make people clean by using the Word. We wash them with Jesus Christ Himself, because He was the Word that makes people clean. He was the truth. And the truth shall set you free.
The love of Jesus is shown to us by making us clean and the love of Jesus is shown through us when we follow His example. When we stop resisting Christ’s cleansing power in our lives, and when we stop resisting His call to follow His lead, His love will flow into us and out of us in a whole new way.