By: Staci Stallings
The other day during VBS, the first half of the play that I didn’t show you was about Jesus washing the disciples feet. Now I have had cause to consider this passage many times over the years, but something about it really struck me that day. Maybe it was because I had never SEEN it played out in real time with the words accompanying it. Maybe it was because we played it out five times in 2 hours. Maybe it was because I had written the script, knew the lines, and then watched as it played out.
I don’t know exactly what it was, but something was different for me that time.
I’m going to try to explain to you the glimpse of something truly profound that I understood for the very first time as I watched. I probably won’t say it as well or as deeply as I feel it, but here goes anyway.
In the washing of the feet, there were three parts that we included in the play. The first was Jesus getting up from the meal and preparing Himself to wash the disciples’ feet. Now I had learned several years ago the interesting fact that Jesus in fact washed Judas’s feet. In Scripture, Judas did not leave until after this pivotal moment. So our Jesus started with one disciple and moved down the line, including Judas.
While He washed, “John” and “Peter” had a conversation about what Jesus was doing and why. Jesus, of course, explained He was washing their feet and that He was doing it to show them how we are to be to and for each other. When He came to Peter (second part), Peter protested that Jesus wasn’t going to wash his feet. “No way, Jesus. That’s a servant’s job, and You’re not my servant.” Off hand, I can’t think of exactly how close this wording it to the Scriptures, but it went something like that. Then Jesus tells Peter that he must wash him if he is to be included in what Jesus is doing.
To which Peter replies, “Then Jesus, not only my feet but my head and my hands as well.” Jesus laughs at this and says if one has had a bath, then they only need their feet washed from the grime of the world, and that this is about holiness not dirt.
Then our Jesus got up saying that now they were clean but not all… as he looked at Judas. Judas understood what Jesus was saying to him, and he jumped up and ran out. Then Jesus tells the disciples as he’s putting his purple sash back on that they don’t understand what He’s doing for them now but very soon they will understand. He tells them that they are to do what He has done.
For some reason at that moment I got it.
I have always pictured God’s relationship with us this way:
Think, for example, of a company’s CEO. The CEO makes the strategy, forms the plan, and sends out orders. Those underneath carry out those orders. That’s the way I always saw God–as above me and I’d better do what He said or else.
My understanding has been shifting over the last few years, but I’m not sure it’s ever gone quite this far.
When I was watching that play, all of a sudden, I saw not the triangle above but this triangle:
In this triangle, Jesus is at the BOTTOM, not at that top. I suddenly saw that Jesus is telling us that He is willing to serve us, to hold us up, to support us. And that’s what He wants us to do for each other. That to truly be His follower, we give up our striving to be “on top” and humbly accept the servant’s role just like He did.
Think of your family. Are Dad and Mom at the top, demanding and being the CEO in control and in charge? Or are they at the bottom–willing to serve, to support, to hold up each other and the children?
I know. Weird thought, huh? It completely changes my views of my role as mom and wife.
However, strangely that bottom person isn’t a bottom-dweller. It is not easy to be the support for someone else. It’s not easy to let others lean on you. It’s not easy to be Jesus, washing others’ feet, taking them by the hand, leading them to holiness not because you demand it but because you model for them how to do that.
The bottom support position requires immense strength, patience, perseverance, and grace. It requires us to sit on the floor and wash the spiritual grime from each other. That’s not a pleasant job. It’s humbling. It’s hard. However, I truly and honestly believe that that is exactly what Jesus was calling us to do here. “Do as I have done for you.”
He has forgiven you. Who have you not forgiven?
He has loved you even though you are not perfect. Who have you refused to give love to?
He has been compassionate with you. Who have you withdrawn your compassion from?
He has given you grace even when you didn’t deserve it. Who have you refused to extend grace to because they didn’t earn it or don’t deserve it?
Think about it. This is not some theological discussion. This is where the rubber meets the road in Christianity. Do you call yourself a Christian and yet refuse to act as Jesus did–not just for the disciples but for you?
As I ask myself these questions, I see places in my life that I’m acting way too much like the first triangle and not nearly enough like the second.
But before you start wallowing in shame at the places and times you’ve gotten this really wrong, understand this: God doesn’t expect you to do any of this on your own. You can’t. And He knows that. All He’s asking is that you open yourself to be willing to start the process and to let Him work in you to complete it. Where you say “this is too hard,” understand that you are right, it is. Then ask, beg, and pray for to Him to help you. He will.
I know that because He promised that He would be there to wipe the grime off our lives if we, like Peter, are willing to let Him. Are you willing to let Him?