Serving Up a Simple Truth
Meditation on John 13:12-17 by Cris Cramer
John 13:12-17 (NIV):
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."
I've dragged my heels in writing about this episode of Jesus' last meal with his disciples before he was arrested. My writer's heart wants to find something clever to say, something interesting, something new and catchy. But I wasn't finding any such thing here. It's just the bare words; just a man serving his friends, both as a lesson and a gift of love.
My personal joy in finding clever words and angles to write about kept me from realizing something about this story: not everything is intended to be clever. Some things are just as simple as they look. Sometimes, trying to make a thing more complex and clever reduces it, undermines its power. It's better to let a simple thing be simple, to avoid masking the plain strength and truth of it with fancy trimmings. I think it's especially important if the simple truth is a hard one to face. We crafty human people don't need any help in justifying our way out from under uncomfortable obligations.
The simple, bare facts of this story are that Jesus chose to perform a menial service for his friends and disciples. He volunteered to do something for them that was unglamorous but needful, and then he told them they should choose to do the same kinds of things for each other.
I find it hard to face the baldness of this lesson-by-example. I balk at the necessity of obeying Jesus here; at best, I want to pick and choose, to do the menial things that I don't mind so much, and call that good enough. But I don't think it really is. What if the most needful thing is something that I really hate? What if the price of showing real love to someone is choosing to do something I find really distasteful?
In the end, I find that not only do I have no clever words to say about this story, I have little right to say them -- there's plenty for me to struggle with here in the bare, simple truth.
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