“2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 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.”
| John 13.2-5, NRSV
What about me? It is the priority of the ego. What about me? It is the preoccupation of the self- seeking. What about me? It is the cry of the self- centered, needing to put ourselves up front and center, caring more about ourselves than the outcome. And it has no place in Christian service.
Tullian Tchividjian said, “To focus on how I’m doing more than what Christ has done is Christian narcissism.” Because we cannot be self- absorbed and self- emptying at the same time, as the Apostle Paul says of Christ,
5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.[I]
Instead, we are full of ourselves and seek to protect our image and our interests above all others. It is the “survival of the fittest” but what about Jesus? He has to die for our souls so why can’t we die to our selves?
We take up our cross and follow our noses, follow our hearts, follow the crowd. But, Jesus’ death is hard act to follow.
We help ourselves to his identity, taking the parts we want as our own, taking them home and hanging them on our walls. Because Christianity makes for a good decoration. Jesus serves us well here.
Confined to a frame, positioned right where we want him to be. Nailed to a wall for all visitors to see.
Self- serving, we use Jesus for what we want: to keep up appearances, to peddle our agendas, to get my vote and yours, to maintain power and sanctify our control. We do it all in the name of Jesus. We serve him up in conversations to make our words sound true, to make an argument and to score points, to prop up our social profile, to shame and embarrass others. Because my relationship with Jesus is better than yours.
But, who is this Jesus, who sits at the right hand of the throne of God and yet, has become our right- hand man?
Who is this Jesus, who likes everything about us and wouldn’t change a thing?
Who is this Jesus who demands nothing from us and everything from everyone else?
Who is this Jesus that sees us as his example, the model disciple, the only spitting image of God?
Who is this Jesus and where did you find him? Because this is not Mary’s baby? He is not from Nazareth but from your hometown? This Jesus is new, familiar, acceptable, which makes him suspect. Because those who knew Jesus ran him out of town, tried to kill him, sold him out, denied him and fled from his presence when things got too hard.
Yes, Jesus is the friend of sinners but time and time again, his disciples have proven to be fair- weathered friends to him.[i] So, pardon my suspicion of those who have no problems with Jesus. Because I have not met this Jesus in Scripture or in Spirit. Both challenge me, humble me, agitate me, chide and hound me. How is it that you get off so easily?
Because we cannot follow Christ with our noses in the air when he was humiliated. Are we not humiliated with him? We cannot claim to walk with him and expect better company than sinners, prostitutes, the demon- possessed, the blind and deaf, marginalized, ostracized and the poor. Jesus didn’t hang with and wasn’t welcomed by the well- educated and well off. They had no need of him as a physician.[ii]
How can we serve him and behave as if we are entitled to anything more than what he received? We do not follow him because he was a successful businessman, a celebrity or even popular. We follow him because he suffered and he served us through his sacrifice.
Hands stretched out on a cross, he will continue to give. Interceding for his accuser and abusers, Forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23.34). Offering eternal salvation to the thief on the cross: “Today, you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23.43). Placing his mother in the care of one of his disciples, he says, “My mother is now your mother” (John 19.26). He makes sure that his affairs are in order and that he has helped everyone that he can before he turns his attention to his own feelings, “Why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15.34)?
Jesus knows that he will die, that his time is running out. But, he also knows that will soon run into his Father and return to life eternal. Judas is preparing to betray him yet he remains faithful. He wraps a towel around him; he will cleanse and take on the filth of their journey. Charges are being brought against him and Jesus is giving pedicures.
Peter represents so many of us. “What are you doing Jesus? ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ This is not appropriate! This is not necessary! This is beneath you! This is not what leaders do! I won’t have it; it will never happen.”
But, Jesus did it to set an example and to model the conditions of discipleship: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Jesus will not be remembered for what he did for himself but what he did for others. He is getting ready to die and he is not asking, “What about me?” He has come to be of service. What about you?
[i] Matthew 11.19
[ii] Mark 2.17
[i] Philippians 2.5-8, NRSV