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What a Master!

Jesus had now successfully approached the fag end of his earthly mission (he would lay down his life for the sin of the world in a week’s time). As the Gospel puts it, Jesus (who) had loved his own all along, he was now going to love them till the end.

So Jesus took a towel, tied it around his waist, then a bowl of water and began washing his disiples feet one by one wiping them dry soon after.

It is imaginable what his disciples would have felt, have done! One can piece together they couldn’t successfully stop him. Clearly there was this bewilderment about what Jesus was doing. He wasn’t so much doing it with their permission but as their Master who was making a point.

A few events prior to this feet washing event: Lazarus had only been raised a few days back (that means Jesus was lord of life and death!), his sister Mary had anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume (that Jesus was nobility), even all of Jerusalem (at festival time it was exceptionally crowded from visiting Jews from all over the world!) was in an uproar when Jesus symbolically entered Jerusalem as the Messiah, the Son of David, The King (he was unanimously acknowledged to be the Man for the time)! They had shouted ‘Hosannahs’ to invite their king into David’s royal city! Immediately following this the Gospels unmistakbly mention Jesus went on a riot inside the temple mauling and tearing the businessmen and moneychangers (well not the persons themselves, but their wares 😀 c’mon you know Jesus was a Prince, a gentleman but a disciplinarian Father nevertheless!) inside the temple premises for converting a house of prayer into a den of thieves (so Jesus saw of himself as in lead/command). Even amid other sittings (around this time) with his disciples, a voice from heaven had thundered in response to Jesus exclusively for the disciples’ benefit of grasping Jesus’ identity (that Jesus was the Son of God). So there was ample evidence that Jesus well knew what he was about (about this feet washing act)!

And yet humbled by Jesus’ act of washing their feet, each of the disciples must have felt ashamed (even exposed, reproved) of allowing, of watching, of having to endure their supreme Master being/becoming their very slave and servant (quite showing them a way to follow, a pattern to imitate). It was an unadulterated call to humility of Jesus’ followers. It was even heaping burning coals on their heads for wanting to be each the chief viceroy under their new king (in fact squabbles had broken out as which of them would be the greatest – and talk about the King himself being their servant!). They were awestruck, ashamed, even moved of their Master’s humility, humiliation.

Sure enough when Jesus came to Peter, Peter being one of the most free among them with Jesus, protested: ‘No, not my feet Lord! Not you! Never!’ Peter couldn’t have been more right, for yes it was not right for the immaculate Lord of All to be washing unclean men’s feet but yet Jesus was having none of Peter’s protests! Jesus went so far as to say that if he was not allowed to do this to Peter, then Peter would have no part with him. Jesus also clarified that in time all of this would certainly make sense.

Clearly his voice breaking and weakened by emotion Peter said, ‘Then not just my feet, but my hands and head, my whole body Lord!’

The lesson on humility struck deep fertile ground. It woud take deep root as the rest of church history would later prove of the twelve, each vying with the other to be, become the most humble among them. What a Master, what a King, what virtue!

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The dead man came out

Jesus had just left the vicinity of Jerusalem for there had been a rough altercation between Jesus and the Pharisees (oh yep, Jesus had blasted the religious leaders BLACK n BLUE!), so much so they had grabbed rocks to kill him (the fight was about Jesus claiming to be the Messiah)!!

So to avoid needless clashes with the wicked religious leaders – despite Jesus’ fool-proof argument, those rogues refused to admit or agree-  Jesus had gone off across the Jordan river till his time would come (time for crucifixion i.e. only about a week or two away!).

Now word had arrived from Mary (the Mary I often write about! The one who anointed Jesus’ feet) that her brother Lazarus was critically ill and that Jesus should hurry if he must recover (read heal him).

Wanting to perform a powerful miraculous sign that Jesus held power over death (very close around his own resurrection), that the resurrection is real and therefore he was indeed the Son of God (a final reproof of the Pharisees’ rejection), the Messiah to come, Jesus delayed his response by 2 days.

Obviously, critical Lazarus had died by then. And it appears it had taken 2 more days for Jesus to make it to Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ village of Bethany (a few miles from Jerusalem where he would next be crucified). It was now 4 days since Lazarus had died.

Once Martha heard Jesus had arrived in the village she ran out to meet him. Seeing him she broke down. Though she said ‘Lord, had you been here, my brother would not have died,’ the question she hid was obvious: ‘Why didn’t you come?’

Jesus said to her: Your brother will rise again.

Martha replied: I know he will rise again in the last day!

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she wryly said.

Martha hurried to call her sister Mary to see Jesus. Now Mary didn’t hurry after Martha the last time Martha left, obviously she was angry at Jesus. This time running behind Martha, Mary probably needed the comfort of Jesus, maybe was willing to allow Jesus an explanation.

Mary reached Jesus and threw herself at his feet crying to herself, yelling at Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died, Lord!” The townspeople who had run after Mary following her to Jesus wept too. Jesus seeing Mary and everyone there watched his heart crumble, his throat choke, his nose block, his eyes well up.

“Where have you laid him?”

Staring at the sealed tomb, at death, at severed ties, a half empty home, a voice silenced, a love gone cold, welling memories, Jesus wept.

Some fairly remarked: Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?

Once more deeply moved Jesus came to the tomb.

‘Take away the stone,’ he said.

‘But, L-o-r-d!!’ Martha interrupted. ‘It’s been 4 days and surely there’d be the stench of decay!’

Jesus said: Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?

So they took away the stone.

Then Jesus looked up and said: “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “L-A-Z-A-R-U-S, come out!”

The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

The righteous blind Beggar

The story around the man born blind is amazing! He was all of a blind beggar, condemned to both ridicule (one was believed to be a sinner for having merited such a woeful condition, surely allowed by God!) and beggary (there was no better life available!). And yet he was a righteous man!! More righteous than the most learned religious leaders and synagogue rulers, more righteous than his own father and mother! More righteous than the self-righteous crowds who could ‘see’!

Jesus had healed this man and the matter around this healing had quickly escalated. He was repeatedly being coerced to pronounce the man who had healed him (i.e. Jesus) as ‘not from God’ purely for having done it on the Sabbath. Among all the verbose mutterings of both priest n people, this man held on to the simple original truth of how it all unfolded refusing to yield to the wicked artificial coercion of the authorities or the crowds. So the Pharisees even sent for the man’s parents as if to establish this wasn’t even the blind man himself (lest Jesus their arch rival be allowed even one small mileage for one blind sinner!), but unfortunately the parents pronounced otherwise (owned up their son) but thankfully stopped short of standing by their just son (for the parents feared being excommunicated as Scripture unmistakably notes!).

One last time the authorities tried to force him to confess against his gut feeling (that Jesus was a sinner unlike what occurred to the blind man spontaneously – that Jesus was a righteous man, even a prophet!) but the blind man stoutly replied, ‘Whether or not he is a sinner I don’t know, but one thing I know: I was bind but now I see!” He even reasoned in childlike innocence (that remarkably brought him mighty close to the phenomenal truth about Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah!): a) One doesn’t know where Jesus is from b) Yet he opened my eyes c) We know God does not listen to sinners d) He listens to the godly man who does his will e) Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind f) If this man were not from God, he could do nothing. (And therefore by implication Jesus ought to be a man from God.)

Outraged by his just and reasonable argument they all disowned him: his parents, his priests, the synagogue rulers.

But Jesus didn’t abandon him. He came in search of this man (after he was thrown out of their synagogue and community) and personally told him that He was indeed the Messiah the world was waiting for, a privilege only the greatest among men were given! Isn’t it marvellous that despite his dire circumstances one bind beggar madly stood for the truth? For not one apparent benefit!?! Unbelievable! That is righteousness!

The aside Woman

They brought in a bedraggled woman who had no time to gather herself, fix her hair, wear her best or her make-up. Maybe she wasn’t even covered properly. For she was brought straight out of the adulterous bed from the embrace of a man who she should never have been with (so they probably knew her well and when to catch her – goes to show they never chose to prosecute her all along, but today, even maybe themselves frequented her from time to time, only the ‘supposed’ proof lacking now!). So, (to the crooks) she wasn’t (ever!) the point, but Jesus! The Pharisees had managed all of this, not so much for reforming the debased morality of the time, or to punish a woman who had broken a marriage, but to trap Jesus.

They had asked him as one ‘Should she be stoned?’ for although as per the customary/religious law that was the command, yet it appears that the Jewish law under the Roman eye didn’t allow it! And for Jesus to either let her go or prescribe death by stoning would surely land him in trouble (with Jews or Romans).

While they fumed as if for righteousness (all the while it was just their guile against a nobleman), Jesus was bent down scribbling on the loose sand. Without raising his head he allowed the man who thought of himself as without sin to cast the first stone. Either for fear or guilt (surely for fear, for if it was guilt they would have never brought her in the first place!) they ALL left one by one from the oldest to the youngest, until there was just Jesus and the woman.

He looked up at her asking if no one had condemned her. She replied, ‘No one, my Lord!’ He said, ‘Then I too won’t condemn you.’ And so saying, adding a few more words, ‘Go and sin no more,’ he let her go.

For Jesus they were all the aside, and she his main priority.

Troublesome giving!!

Giving is that odd problem virtue. For to give is to give the best. And yet giving away the best means to live with either nothing or the second best. To choose to give is to give at one’s own expense or not give at all. For there is no such thing as giving when getting precedes it! It’s an all-or-none virtue, and yet we don’t give all the time (only on occasion, or for a time!). And what is given away comes back innumerable times although not always in the same ways, not at once, but in unimagined and superior ways, often only later! Let’s remember virtue never depletes in the larger scheme of truth. Let us give. Scripture is right in saying ‘the righteous give without sparing’!!

The Ultimate Shortcut

HUMILITY!

Humility is the shortcut that leads us into all truth. Although suited to a different context, this illustration might be used:

“Once a stranger stopped a man on the road and asked him, “Where does this road lead to?” The man answered, “Where do you want to go?”

Again the stranger persisted, “Where does this road lead to?”

“My friend,” replied the other “this road leads to anywhere.” – John Haggai

So also humility is the road that connects all truth. One might say the road to truth is paved with humility. Humility leads to truth and truth, home. (As an aside one might discern here a caution: humility that runs away from truth isn’t humility but its opposite, pride! Therefore what follows is without genuine humility one will not find truth.) That is why Scripture repeatedly exhorts us to be humble. “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.” Again, “humility goes before honour.” Humility is also at the heart of the Gospel, for the forgiveness of Christ is preceded by humility, admission of guilt, repentance. For the principle is simple: correction, progress, growth, development, maturity all come from leaving behind the past (admitting inadequacy, and therefore humility) and moving on to better things, even being open to change/progress however inadequate. Humility is one of the fundamental pillars of truth. If it errs in your life, it is sure doom! On the other hand keep it to zoom from strength to strength! It finds repeated mention in the description of the Messiah. So remember: Humility, the ultimate shortcut!

A patience of thousands

It is extremely hard for us to be patient, in fact what comes almost instinctively is the opp, impatience! We can’t wait for a few seconds, a minute. Even an hour, a day, a week is long for us. Example: if we must wait for a few seconds before the door opens we lose our patience. Or if a few minutes before the milk boils we can’t stand by. If the guest will be here in an hour we can’t wait, neither if the mail will show up in a day! If there’s a week left for the vacations we can’t wait, or for the trip that we await in a month’s time. Even a year before the course is done or 5 years before we embark on that dream journey. Even a lifetime to figure what our life’s really been about!

But God? Jesus? They factored in thousands of years!! I mean talk about a mission where Jesus woud be born as a helpless little infant, to one poor woman, grow up in smalltime Nazareth, live an invisble life till 30, go about quite a mendicant life, die a convict’s death, entrust all one’s vision to 12 ditchers and wait some 2000 odd years before things catch on!! Phew!! Now that is patience! Patience, we need to learn it from our Master.