Jesus’ language was sprinkled with the poetic, the imaginative, the
metaphorical. It disarmed and stirred curiosity in the hearers, opening their
hearts without their even being aware. His powers of persuasion were honed by
His ability to see beyond the ordinary. He loved the story method of getting His
point across. Everyone loves a good story, and Jesus could tell a good story. He
liked to end His stories with a twist that left the hearers walking away
scratching their heads and thinking about them for many hours to come. His
stories always had the goal, though not obvious to the hearer, of opening them
up to the love of Father, who was always waiting in the wings.
aphorisms and parables of Jesus function in a particular way: they are
invitational forms of speech. Jesus used them to invite his hearers to see
something they might not otherwise see. As evocative forms of speech, they tease
the imagination into activity, suggest more than they say, and invite a
transformation in perception.
Drawing pictures from their own familiar
world, He arrested their minds, captured their imaginations, and opened them
ever so gently to the stirrings of the ancient language deep within them. Jesus
liked to put His listeners in almost every story He told, and by the way, you
and I were there as well—the least, the last, the little and the lost. These
were the objects of His loving attention in those stories He told.
many who are first will be last; and the last, first.”
“For the Son of
Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
“See that you do
not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in
heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”
to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever
receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you,
this is the one who is great.”
There are three sets of questions that have had the greatest impact on me:
And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, “what do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?” (John 1:38).
What do you seek? What a piercing, poignant question! The answer to that question unlocks the door of discovery to all that you desperately desire in your life. How will you answer it and how will that response be reflected in your life?
This question was posed to the two disciples of John the Baptist when they turned to follow Jesus after His baptism. Now why would He ask that question at that time? Remember, the questions of Jesus are asked to illumine our hearts, to make us really think. On tiptoe with anticipation, Jesus waits hoping, longing for the desired response. It wasn’t a trick question. He wanted them to verbalize what they were seeking.
How would you answer that question? Don’t think of a religious answer. Don’t answer what you think He might want to hear. How does your heart answer? Are you seeking a spiritual favor, a gift? Are you looking for a powerful ministry bringing recognition? Are you pursuing a spiritual experience? What are you seeking?
It appears they didn’t even have to think. Their answer was quick and decisive, for it had been in their hearts a long time, just waiting for the question to be asked. Formed out of a spiritual hunger that had been growing in their hearts for years, their answer was ready for the long-awaited One.
So as He stood waiting, in unison they sang out their response. “Where are you staying?” They weren’t inviting Jesus into their world; they were looking to enter Jesus’ world. They weren’t seeking a revolution or a revival. They were not looking for a restoration or a new word from God. They were looking for an abiding place, and if they found it, that place would resolve all the issues of their heart.
Their response shines a searchlight on the Church in our days. Too often we are more interested in getting Jesus to come where we are than in finding out where He is. Oh, we’re willing to travel halfway around the world if we hear there is a great move of God happening. But have we asked Him where He is staying? That could very well be different for each one of us. So it is critical that we ask Him where is He staying. Where can we find Him?
Smiling at their alacrity, Jesus also had His answer ready. He had looked into their hearts and was not surprised by their answer. His response was in the form of an invitation. Come and see. Jesus was inviting them home. They would find a home in the presence of Jesus—the home they had been looking for all of their lives.
Phillip then runs to get Nathaniel, urging him to ‘come and see.’ The woman at the well goes into her city and encourages the town folk to ‘come and see.’ This is an ancient invitation that still sounds from an ancient garden, calling us home. And it is the sound that needs to be resounded in our times. It is the call of the true evangelist!
2. And Jesus stopped and called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Matthew 20:32).
Another penetrating question sounds forth from the heart of the Son of man. It is a question looking for its answer. How do we answer that question? Probing our heart, the question asks if we know what we really want. Is it healing? Is it friendship? Do we want forgiveness for our wretchedness? Someone to care for us? Do we want a severed relationship restored? Whatever the answer given, Jesus has a loving response.
At the same time it is a question seeking to open a door. The heart of Jesus is ready to respond to whatever the answer. This is not just a curious question needing to understand man’s desires or expose his selfish requests; it is a question seeking to respond to man’s most intimate wants and needs. The question is birthed in the pool of heavenly love, longing to draw into its healing waters the sick, hopeless, helpless, broken, and lost.
The Lord cares deeply about the hidden desires of man. Pushing their way up through the disappointments and failures of life, these longings of our hearts are like a signal light searching the heavens for an answer—for someone to calm our troubled waters, heal our pain, and save our families. There is One who saw our S.O.S., and before it was ever signaled He and the Son of His love planned the rescue mission. That Son now asks you the question, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
3. So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?” (John 13:12). This last question may be the key to the whole ministry of Jesus as well as the true ministry of the Church. The answer to this question can unlock the secret codes of the ancient language of Eden. Here again we are confronted with a challenge—the challenge of familiarity. Having read these verses so many times we believe we understand them. We know the beginnings of Jesus’ stories, and we know the ends, but have we caught the hidden meanings? We skim over the words in familiarity, and again and again chance missing the power of their true spiritual meaning. Do we really know what He did that night when He washed the disciples’ feet? We are proud of ourselves when we make this a sacrament in our churches, but may have missed its true significance. It is easier to celebrate a sacrament than it is to walk in a truth.
The events of that evening became a sign for all future generations. Have you been taught the power of the towel? Jesus was leaving no room for doubt as He knelt at the feet of each disciple that servant hood was the calling He entrusted to us. As Jesus had served them, so He calls us to serve one another.
This call seems to have become lost in duty rosters of the Church. We have reversed the order. Far too often the focus of ministry and leadership is on being served rather than serving. Many are the sermons and the conferences teaching the people how to support their pastor or their elders. Rather than the shepherds caring for the sheep, we find sheep being fleeced for the sake of the ministry. The people sitting in the pews (or chairs) are being told by the pastor, the bishop, and every traveling minister who passes through to support the vision of the pastor and the church. We expect people to listen to our sermons but schedule an appointment here and there to hear what is on their hearts. Let’s be honest; we are more concerned with our needs as ministers of the gospel than with the needs of those to whom we are to minister that gospel.
So what is this washing of the feet? Where is the value? Is it just a symbolic ritual?
By washing His friends’ feet, Jesus was demonstrating that He came to cleanse and cover, not judge and condemn. This was to be the Kingdom way. Religion will always be the moral conscience for mankind—more concerned with exposing sin than with providing a covering for man’s nakedness as Father did in the garden.
We live in a “dirty” world. There is much pollution soiling our souls—rejection, unforgiveness, betrayal, emotional trauma, and countless other diseases of the soul. Man strives, ineffectively, every way he can think of to remove the oily film of sin and shame that is smothering him. He has already discovered that the waters of religion do not remove the filth, but only spreads it.
The Son of man comes with a towel in one hand and a bowl in the other, tenderly offering to wash the muck from the feet of man. He stoops down at your feet, and caressing them in His hands, He lovingly looks at the caked grime encasing your feet. Religious men looking on want to condemn you for that filth. Jesus looks up to them, holds up His hand as if to shut their mouths, and then quietly returns to the job of cleaning and then covering your feet. With tears streaming down His cheeks, He washes until all is clean.
To its great loss, the Church has exchanged the towel for the sword. We seem more comfortable with the sword of judgment than with the towel of healing. The world is more aware of the judgmentalism of the Church than they are of the cleansing power of the Church. Men have heard our judging, condemning words but rarely have they heard words that offer to clean their dirty souls. It has always been easier to judge others from our ivory towers than to step down into the mire with them with the cleansing towel. We need to rediscover the cleansing towel and rediscover the example and call left to us by our Master.
Thus, Jesus asked them if they understood what He was doing. He loved these men and was prepared to serve them, even knowing that each one of them would deny Him in some way in the hours ahead. The memories of that night were etched on the hearts of the disciples as long as they lived. They went forth into the world as an army of servants. The weapon of choice for these soldiers: the cleansing towel.
The One who lived His life in service of others will return in that same spirit. He is certainly coming back as King, but it will be as a serving King. The Son of man has not lost His towel. When He returns He will come with the towel, girding Himself as He prepares to reign as a servant King. The invitation is clear. We are all called to sit at the table of the Father, where the Son will once again serve the children of His love. He is the “waiter” at the supper of the Lamb.
“Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.”