“Rose from supper, He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
(John 13:4-5 ESV)
“Jesus answered; it is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it. So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.”
(John 13:26 ESV)
In the first century, people would walk all around as they traveled from place to place. It was a customary tradition to wash the feet of your guests as they entered your home and this task was performed by a servant of the house. It was never performed by the head of the home in which one was visiting.
Sharing a meal was a sign of friendship and honor in the Jewish culture. Napkins were not yet in use and forks were not invented yet. Each guest would bring his own knife to the meal for the purpose of cutting meat, but most of the food would be eaten by hand. Eating by hand gave one sticky fingers so servants would offer guest’s bowls of water in which they could occasionally clean their fingers during the meal.
Christ demonstrated not only a love for others, including one who would ultimately betray him, but a radical love throughout Scripture. We find in John 13… a display of Christ’s radical love so incomprehensible to our finite minds, it truly is difficult for me to understand. Christ knew His betrayer, who eventually sold Him for a handful of silver, was sitting at His table yet Christ became a servant and washed his feet and in a final act of radical, unconditional love and affection at dinner shared with Judas a final plea for friendship.
Loving others can be difficult and complicated! It is so difficult, almost impossible to love others who continually hurt and reject us. Continuing to love someone who constantly rejects us and use hurtful words to attack us, is what I would refer to as a type of radical love. Very few of us really love our enemies and if we do, it’s only because we have to. I’m sure we have all experienced moments where we must tolerate someone we do not particularly like. Perhaps at work or casually in a group we find we must temporally tolerate someone who annoys or offends us. We would much rather spend time with those we love and enjoy.
I think the most difficult command Christ gave to us who choose to follow Him is to practice His radical form of unconditional love. This form of radical love which forces us to enter into the world’s darkness, removes us from our Christian subcultures, and takes us from the security and safety of our like-minded family and friends. Can you imagine experiencing the suffering and rejection Christ endured so that we may have eternal life? They beat Him beyond recognition, spat in His face, pounded nails in His hands and His feet as they nailed Him to the wood of the cross. He was naked as He hung on His cross; disfigured in pain and agony they sold the clothes He once wore just beneath Him as He hung there suffering for you and for me. What is completely incomprehensible to me, a radical love unimaginable, too difficult for me to understand, would have been standing at the foot of His cross and hearing Him mumble these words,
“…Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
(Luke 23:34 ESV)
He prayed a prayer of forgiveness for His executioners. In the final moments of His earthly life, He finished practicing what He taught…an unconditional and radical form of love.
He practiced an unconditional radical love up to His earthly final breaths and yet we still deny Him, mock Him, curse Him, and crucify Him day after day. He is hated and despised in a world in which He created and continues to be the only significant person in history who we desperately try to misrepresent, disprove, disclaim, and disrespect… And yet He still calls out for you and for me!
Today…please take the time to ask yourselves… Who do you love? Who do you accept love from? Is this love radical? Is this love unconditional?
For those of you who are hurting and in despair, suffering and in pain, you have only one decision to make. You can either walk alone in your pain, suffering, and darkness OR…. you can hold on tightly to a nail-scarred hand.
“—The followers of Christ have been called to peace…and they must not only have peace but also make it. And to end they renounce all violence and tumult. In the cause of Christ nothing is to be gained by such methods. His disciples keep the peace by choosing to endure suffering themselves rather than inflict it on others. They maintain fellowship where others would break it off.”
“God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility , namely, real human beings the real world, this is for God the ground of unfathomable love.”