Startling Humility


John 13:1-5; 20-21
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then 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.

Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.

This preamble to the washing of the disciples feet starts out with a lot of subtext.  It says Jesus is aware that his hour has come, he will soon be crucified.  Then the verses move on to say that the devil had already entered Judas to incite him to betray Jesus. The passage goes back to Jesus reflecting on who he is, his mission and his relationship with God.  After doing that he washes the disciples feet—including Judas.  That piece can get lost in the mix because our focus is often on the interaction Jesus has with Peter, but Judas is also there.

Something inside of me wants this to not be how it went down.  I’d like to see the whole foot washing happen when it’s emotionally safe, when Judas has already left and Jesus isn’t humbling himself to person who will betray him just hours later. Having Judas receive that gift is something we should look at full in the face.

Jesus Meets us With Humility

We also start out as enemies of God. When Jesus gives us new life, he meets us where we are.  This is where the parallel breaks down, but what I want to look at is Jesus. The incarnational way Jesus comes to us is itself an act of humility.  Sometimes our own personal distance from God doesn’t seem that bad or like we’re opposing God, but it’s a condition we could never overcome on our own.

We need Jesus to bring his mercy to us. It should be no less startling of a picture than Jesus washing the feet of Judas.  This act gives us a picture of what God’s mercy really is. It gives us a picture that helps us to reflect on the dire nature of our situation.  When we look at this Jesus, it should fill us with confidence and gratitude.  Confidence because “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Gratitude because “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Photo credit: Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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