Are You Clean? - A Reflection on John 13:1-15
There are the obvious insights to be obtained from this passage and we have reflected upon earlier. One is about Servant Leadership (https://youtu.be/SXvRd1oEE1U) and the other about The Greatness of Humility (https://youtu.be/ADPoxhfZVnc). If you have the time, do go through them.
Today, I’d like us to reflect upon the not-so-obvious insights — like the need for cleansing, and ongoing cleansing — in the context of what is described in this story today. At the Last Supper, Lord Jesus drops to his knees before the apostles and begins to wash their feet. Peter (of course it would be Peter!) protests, saying, “You will never wash my feet,” to which our Lord responds, “Unless I wash you, you have no share of me.” This seems to be a reference to baptism.
Then Peter, who never knows when to quit, says, “Then wash all of me.” And Jesus retorts, “One who is bathed does not need to wash, and you are clean, except for your feet which are dirty.” Those of us who are baptized in Christ and walk in his ways are already made clean, but the journey is rough and, like it or not, our feet get dirty. Who wants dirty feet? And it is Jesus who cleans those feet, just as he cleans the rest of us when we come to him in baptism.
But just being baptized does not ensure cleansing. It is the repentance that goes along with it that ensures that. What is repentance? Remember the story of the prodigal son who found himself in a pig sty after squandering his inheritance. He returns to his Father, dirty and bedraggled, and very apologetic. His father graciously welcomes him home, and tells the servants to put the best robe on him. This is, obviously, after he has showered.
Now, the DESIRE to REMAIN fresh and clean is what constitutes repentance. Can you imagine, that after having bathed and dressed in fine robes, the boy returns to the pig sty? And, yet, doesn’t that describe many of us, even those who call ourselves Christian? We claim to be with Christ, yet we are not with him. Kinda like Judas. While washing Peter’s feet, our Lord said, “You are clean, but not all of you.” And he was talking about Judas. Because Judas didn’t just have dirty feet; he had a dirty soul.
Are our souls clean? It doesn’t matter if they are filthy, now is our chance to make them clean. Let us ask our Lord to wash us, and he will. And in his blood, no less. And “though our sins are like scarlet, we shall be made as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).
Surely Not I? - A Reflection on Matthew 26:14-25
Most of the time when we read Scripture, or hear it read out loud (as we just did), we miss the intensity of the drama inherent in the situation described: the pathos, the poignancy, the passion. Which is why reflecting upon it is so important, because it allows us to see and hear and feel things we otherwise wouldn’t, and realize things that we might not otherwise realize. Consider today’s story.
Jesus is having what he knows is going to be his last meal with his apostles. And while they are eating he tells them that one of them is going to betray him. Quite naturally, they get very distressed. They know they are not leading perfect lives. They know they keep goofing up time and time again. They know they don’t understand much about their master, or his purpose. Peter, for example, is rebuked by Jesus practically every time he says something or does something.
Therefore, when Jesus says one of them is gonna betray him, I am sure they are all thinking: “My God, is he talking about me? Am I the one who is going to betray him?” And they want to know. So they ask him, one by one, “Surely not I, Lord?” I can understand their fear. They love this man. They would die for him (or so they would like to believe). They wanna be with him in heaven. And to think that they might betray him — it is horrifying!
And then the real betrayer, the one who had made a deal to sell him out and KNOWS he is the one, asks the same question: “Surely not I?” There is a Hebrew word called ‘chutzpah’, which loosely translates as audacity, but audacious doesn’t describe Judas as well as chutzpah does. The chutzpah of the man to ask a question to which he knows the answer. And I wonder what is going on in HIS head as he asks the question.
Does he know his betrayal is going to lead to Jesus’s death? I think maybe he does. He knows the Jewish leaders have tried to kill Jesus on many occasions. But does he know that his betrayal is going to lead to his OWN death? I don’t think so. People like Judas don’t think of the long term consequences of their actions; they just look at the immediate pay off. And Judas got his: thirty pieces of silver. But then he got the rest of his wages: death. Because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a).
What a terrible tragedy! However, let us remember that “though the wages of sin (might be death) the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). We don’t have to go the way of Judas. We can go the way of Jesus.
THE HEART BREAKERS
Many, many years ago, when this ministry had just begun, I started hosting a prayer meeting in my house. In a few weeks, the numbers started swelling, and it wasn’t long before we had 40 or 50 people gathering in a space that could really accommodate only 20. One of the people who attended was this lady who was known to be a troublemaker. A few people actually warned me about her, telling me she was dangerous to me and the ministry.
I thought about it, but then reasoned that I couldn’t tell her to stop. Besides, God had told us to love even our enemies, and love might change her. So, I welcomed her as I did everybody else, and treated her and her family with much love. And, then, one day she mounted a mutiny, and almost overnight the people attending the meetings dwindled to a handful. I can’t even begin to tell you how I felt. Not just at being betrayed by her, but also the abandonment by the others. It was heart-breaking.
I, of course, went to my Lord asking him why he let this happen. And he, of course, had his answers. One was that I understand what he went through experientially. Empathy is a good thing, but it can’t beat actually going through the pain yourself. Jesus went through a lot of it because it wasn’t just Judas who let him down. It was Peter and all the others. Remember they ALL deserted him in the Garden of Gethsemane (see Mark 14:50).
And, two, he wanted to see what I was made of: whether I would give up in disappointment and disillusionment, or I would persevere. Well, you know the answer to that one. I’m still here, and today, we have a ministry that reaches millions worldwide. The people who stuck with me during that time of testing helped make it what it is today and I really am grateful to each and every one of them. I am sure you can draw the necessary conclusions from this story, but there is something else I’d like us to reflect upon today because it is important.
For a long time after this happened, I wondered, if I had known in advance what this lady would do, would I still have allowed her to be part of us? The answer was always “No”. It was only when we got to Holy Week the following year and I heard today’s passage that I changed it to a “Yes.” After all, if Jesus chose his apostles, despite knowing what they would do; and if he could still love them, despite what they did, then so could I. It’s not easy – she wasn’t the only one to break my heart and it hurts — but I would still love them.
And so should you. Because as Jesus said in today’s reading, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” And he loved us though we all broke his heart.
One of the things this ministry does is publish a quarterly magazine titled Cornerstone. It’s a 92-page, full-color, glossy with production standards that are as high as the best magazines in the world. We are giving away the latest issue free. The cover story is how to spend time in personal prayer and, in these days of lock-down, it is something you may wish to do. You can download a PDF on my Facebook Page. The link is in the Description Box below.
Obviously, the cost to publish a magazine like this is considerably high, and I am often asked why I spend so much when I can get it printed cheaper and use the money saved for better things, like feeding the poor. So, I can really understand what the woman in today’s story feels. She wipes our Lord’s feet with perfume that cost about a year’s wages — literally — and ALL the apostles wonder what is wrong with her.
In John’s version here, only Judas is blamed, but in Matthew’s version, it says, “When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked (Matthew 26:8). Now, if we are honest — and I hope we ARE honest when we reflect upon Scripture, because only honesty leads to conversion — don’t most of us feel the same? A year’s wages poured out on somebody’s feet. Isn’t that a terrible waste? You know what I am saying? So, why does Jesus praise her then?
Because Mary exemplifies Jesus’ teaching that “anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). Mary shows that she has no attachment to SELF as most commonly seen in people. One, there is no attachment to money; we see her pour out this perfume, unmindful of the cost. Two, there is no pride; she applies the perfume to his feet, like a humble servant would.
Three, she doesn’t care for the reaction of people; she knows she will be criticized for her actions but that doesn’t stop her. Four, she understood that extravagant sacrifice was the response to extravagant love. And it is this last thing that motivates people to make great sacrifices for God, unmindful of anyone or anything else. We understand the extravagant love. And we respond accordingly.
As we journey through Holy Week may we all realize the great, great love that Jesus has for us, dying for people such as ourselves, and respond by giving of ourselves to him as he gave of himself to us.