Our church joined with several others in town for an ecumenical communion service last night. We listened once again to the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. And once again, a layer was peeled away and a fresh understanding of the old story began to form in my mind. Hang in there with me as I wander toward a point.
The night of the Last Supper, Jesus knew that “he had come from God and was returning to God.” (John 13:3) He was fully aware that he was about to leave his group of friends; men with whom he had spent three years, day in and day out. When I was in high school, I spent a summer on a mission project. Our team went through a lot together in those few weeks and by the time it was coming to an end, we had grown very close. Leaving each other was hard and tearful. How difficult it must have been for Jesus to spend one last night with close friends. He also knew he was going to be tortured and put to death. So often, for me, the anticipation of having to go through something difficult is almost as bad as having to actually go through it. Facing a scary medical test or needing to confront someone on a touchy issue can loom large in my mind before the encounter even takes place. How heavy must have been the thoughts going through Jesus’ mind that night.
Last evening it became clear to me that Jesus was suffering as he washed his friends’ dirty feet. He was crushed beneath the weight of saying goodbye, facing a gruesome death and bearing the sin of the world. Yet in the midst of his own personal suffering, he served.
I’m most likely to serve when I’ve had a good night’s sleep, enjoyed a hot cup of coffee and have a fairly clear schedule. Even menial tasks like picking up the nursery, putting music back in folders, or washing out coffee pots, are met with a good attitude. But if I’m not feeling well, or I’m weighed down with worries, or overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done, my servanthood wanes. It’s hard for me to serve when I’m suffering.
I was reminded of a quote by Calvin Miller: “You are most mature when you minister to others in their pain, without reminding them that you yourself have problems. To minister to others even when you need ministry is to liberate your soul from small addictions to yourself.”
Jesus was not addicted to himself.
I am addicted to myself.
I am most like Jesus when I am not serving myself, but serving others.
I am most like Jesus when I serve others in the middle of my suffering.
I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you….Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:15, 17