Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 12 November 21:
John 13:2-5, 12-17 — During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him…. When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
Knowing Judas had already decided to betray Him unto death, Jesus washed Judas’ feet as a servant would – “He loved them to the end.” (John 13:1) Jesus then said His disciples should treat others the same way. To do otherwise would be to act as if we deserve more honor than Jesus – “A servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”
Jesus’ instructions here are easy to understand but very hard to do. However, Jesus is equally clear that those who are blessed aren’t the ones who know what they ought to do but rather those who know what to do and actually do it. So, how can we possibly live up to Jesus’ example?
Unconditionally loving those who treat us poorly has a lot to do with perspective – “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper… and began to wash the disciples’ feet.” When we fully appreciate all that God has given us, that our Sovereign God who is Love and who loves us perfectly is in complete control of everything which happens to us, that nothing can separate us from His love, that He will work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), and that we have eternal life and eternal riches in Christ, we can love, forgive, and give confidently and joyfully without fear of loss and knowing that our loving response draws us closer to Jesus, brings glory to God, and will be blessed by God.
- 1 John 4:18 — There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
- Proverbs 22:9 — Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.
- 2 Timothy 1:7 — …for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
- Galatians 5:22-23 — But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control….
Fear and pride (two sides of the same coin) stand in the way of love (our greatest commandment from God). We treat people poorly (and respond to circumstances inappropriately) when we don’t appreciate God’s abundant love for us and for them, and when we feel as if we need to fight for, defend, or protect what is ours, whether it be protecting our rights, our positions, our reputations, our egos, our possessions, our pleasures, or anything else. When we fear others (worrying about what they might take from us for fail to give us), we can’t love them as we should. However, when we rest securely in the perfect love and provision of God, and when we operate from an abundance mentality (having a bountiful eye), we are free to love, to forgive, and to give without fear – “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)
Jesus knew Judas had decided to betray Him, but what determined Jesus’ response was His greater knowledge of the perfect sovereignty, love, and provision of His Father. Jesus’ attitude and behavior towards others was not controlled by their unloving behavior towards Him but rather by His love for them, a love ready to go to the cross for sinners while they were still sinning — “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) If you have a hard time loving and forgiving anyone else, regardless of what they have done or are doing to you, you have a perspective problem and a love problem. If you have a problem controlling your temper (lacking the fruits of the spirit of “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”) You have a perspective problem and a love problem. Pray that God will help you truly appreciate the immeasurable riches you have in Christ, the complete and eternal security you have in Him, and the love He has for both you and for those who hurt you daily. Pray that your attitudes and actions will be controlled by His amazing grace which He bestows not only on you but also upon your enemies – “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” (Luke 6:35)
- Luke 9:23 — And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Finally, knowing our Righteous Master, who gave His life for us while we were still sinners, has personally sent us into the world with a message of grace (the Gospel) for us to proclaim in word and deed, we should have more than enough motivation to surrender our supposed rights so others might believe and be saved. If we aren’t willing to carry our cross daily in relationships with others, what does that say about what we really think about the Cross of Christ? “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Hebrews 12:4)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 12 November 21: Deny self, take up your cross today, and follow Jesus.