Sunday 29 March 2015

John 13:1-17 - A servant heart

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Jesus and his disciples were sharing an evening meal shortly before Passover. Jesus knew it was almost time to leave this world and return to the Father, but he loved his followers deeply and wanted to show them this in a way they would remember. Not only that, he wanted them to learn that they must be servants to one another.

He knew that he had all power and authority from the Father, and he did something extraordinary and very unexpected. Quietly, he left the table and removed his outer robe and possibly his tunic too. Every eye would have been watching him and every mind wondering, 'What is the Master doing?'

Jesus picked up a towel and wrapped it around his waist, then he filled a bowl with water and started washing the disciple's feet and drying them on the towel. This was the humbling and degrading work of a lowly servant; feet were regarded as lacking in honour, dusty as they would have been from the road. To this day Muslims remove their shoes before entering a mosque, and throwing shoes at someone is a calculated insult. The disciples seem to have taken Jesus' unexpected behaviour quietly and without making a fuss. But then Jesus comes to Peter.

Peter was clearly one of those people who just said what was on his mind when others would ponder it quietly. He was not afraid to be wrong. So he came right out with it, 'Lord, are you going to wash my feet?' It doesn't make sense to Peter! It's not quite a refusal to be washed, but it comes pretty close. The question implies incredulity and a sense that this is an utterly inappropriate thing for Jesus to do. So Jesus explains, 'You don't understand this right now, but you will later.'

But Peter isn't ready to give way. He knows the truth, he is the servant, Jesus is the Master. What Jesus is doing is back to front. (It so often is!) Peter declares, probably loudly, that he will not allow Jesus to wash his feet. But then Jesus puts it more starkly, 'Unless I wash you, you have no part with me'.

This is too much for Peter who now declares he wants to be washed from head to toe! But the point of washing the feet is not to cleanse the whole body, it was a custom used to welcome honoured guests to your home (Luke 7:44). Jesus is welcoming the disciples into his Father's house, he is acting as a lowly servant in his Father's household and he is declaring the disciples to be honoured guests. In effect, he's saying that in his Father's house, they are more honoured than he is. This is an extraordinary statement and I suppose most of us feel about it much as Peter might have done. Yet this is what Jesus did!

But then Jesus clarifies everything for them, and for us. He explains that he has demonstrated servanthood towards them so that they will remember to do the same for one another. Father, may we always be ready to have servant hearts towards one another.

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Tuesday 10 March 2015

John 12:44-50 - See me, see my Father

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Some of the Jewish leaders believe in Yahshua but won't acknowledge him openly because of the Pharisees (verse 42). What a contrast with Yahshua himself here in verse 44! He 'cried out' that those who believe in him also believe in the Father who sent him. The Greek word for 'cried out' is ἔκραξεν (ekraxen), the same word used for a raven's piercing call. It's emphatic, 'Jesus yelled' or 'Jesus screamed' gives a better sense. It's as if he shouted 'Aarrgghh! Whoever believes in me...'

There are two differences between the leaders who believe in him but won't admit it, and Jesus himself. There is the difference between silence and a loud yell, but there are also different implications. Ignoring the Son is bad, but ignoring the Father is worse. Believing in the Father and seeing the Father is essential. In part that is why Yahshua came - to be the light that lets us see the Father as he really is. Jesus came to banish the darkness, the hiddenness of the Father. Yet these Jewish leaders hide what is in their hearts for fear of the Pharisees. If they allowed the inner light to burn and shine they would join him in shouting out the truth!

And although Jesus does not come to judge, the words he has spoken will certainly do so. There will be no escaping these words when the last day comes.

And what about us? Will I, will you, be like those Jewish religious leaders? Will we hide the truth in our hearts, fearful to share it because of what unbelievers might say or do? Or will we, following Jesus, scream out this truth as loudly as our lungs will permit?

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