13 in 13

It would be pretty appropriate for me to dive right in and write about Mary and Martha today. I love their Christ-centered message so very much – you already know that. But that’d be too cliché. I started the message, but something else caught my attention, so I put that 1 on hold for now.

I’ve always been 1 to look for the quickest/easiest way to learning new things.  Since cramming was frequently resorted to, mnemonics were my jam. I mean, if the list-to-be-memorized had any sort of crazy relationship that I could muster up, it was going into a mnemonic. I’d write stories, come up with ridiculous scenarios, rhymes (that didn’t always rhyme)…whatever I could do to make memorizing a BIT more entertaining.

So it was only lately that I started trying to apply this to my Bible. Maybe you memorized the Word of God during your toddler years, and would write out scripture with your alphabet cereal in elementary school. Not me. 

When it hit me that I could barely tell the difference between the Old and New Testaments as a college student (NEVER too late btw), I started making moves towards learning God’s Word…I mean, it just clicked somewhere that if this is what God has to say, I should prolly give it a skim. “Creator of the Universe” and all, He might have some insight on life. That being said – you’re reading my words now…please stop reading immediately if you haven’t read His Word yet today. Doctor’s orders. What should you read? Try John 13 for now. Then come back to this.

I started making Bible mnemonics and memory tools (if you have any good ones please comment/share below!). 

How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth! Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. (Psalms 119:103, 105 NKJV) 

I quickly learned that I could not keep His words on my lips, and that my path would be pitch black if I didn’t come up with a method for keeping them close. Imagine a life full of proverbial toe stubbing…thats mine. I need all the ‘light to my path’ that I can get. I’ll introduce you to them as they come up (warning: some make more sense than others). You’ve already been introduced through the title to 1 I came up with – 13 in 13.

I read John 13 today. Dismal much?. Jesus’ coming death, Judas’ imminent betrayal, not exactly the way to start off an attractive blog entry. But in verse 4, things start happening that I was more familiar with. 

rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. (John 13:4-5 NKJV)

Got the mental image in your head? Perfect. Now count the people in your mental room. Jesus + 12 = 13. John chapter? 13. Beautiful scene right? Now you can tie the two together. 13 in 13. We experience it on Covenant Thursday next week. But the tradition of my priest wiping my feet never made much sense to me. I mean I knew it happened (now we know where to find it), but thanks to Peter getting embarrassed, (we will definitely talk about Him again soon) we get some explanations:

Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” (John 13:8 NKJV)

                                              

Woah. Ok, well in that case Jesus. Go right ahead. I want to have a part with You. It’s awkward with our priest just using a towel and dabbing our shins (probably because there are 500 others to wash and not 12). What if my feet smell bad? And my toes!? Thank God I have socks on. Can you imagine (H)him holding your foot and rubbing(scrubbing for some) off the dirt? And its not like the disciples showed up in some fresh new $200 Lebrons, their ‘shoes’ didn’t contribute much to fending off dirt. Makes me uncomfortable just thinking about it. The feet of my soul really stink, and theres no sock-covering them in barring the eyes(or nose) of Christ. I need a cleaning.

St Ambrose said

In baptism all fault is washed away. So fault withdraws. But since Adam was overthrown by the devil and venom was poured out on his feet, this is why you wash the feet…Therefore, you wash the feet so that you can wash away the poisons of the serpent. 

Just like snakes, sin bites us at the foot. In the Ladder of Divine Ascent (St John Climacus), our track to heaven is slowed down by devils grabbing us by the ankle and tripping us up. Much easier to trip a man, than to grab him by his shoulder and try to bring him to the ground. Thats why we should tread cautiously. Satan isn’t coming to pull me down where I can see him work.

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, (Ephesians 5:15 NKJV)

I digress. So Peter gets his feet washed. All 12 do. And this is what got to me in this reading. This is what made me want to write. All 12…including Judas? Yes, even the ‘he-who-must-not-be-named’ of the Christian world. In meditating on this, I placed myself in his ‘sandals’ for a bit. I too betray Christ, daily, even right after He washes my feet. I turn my back and commit myself to the life of getting dirty again.

St Cyril of Alexandria comments on this (try place your name where Judas’ is):

Jesus clearly knew that Judas felt no kindness or wise consideration for his master. He also knew that Judas was full of devilishly bitter poison, and even while [his feet were being washed by Jesus] he was devising the means to betray him. 
Nevertheless, Jesus honored him just as much as the rest of the disciples and washed his feet as well, continually exhibiting his own unique love. Jesus did not express his anger, in fact, until he had tried every kind of objection. Note how this special quality is distinctive of the divine nature. Although God knows what is about to happen, he brings his punishment prematurely on no one. 

Thank You Jesus for washing my feet. For removing from me the garbage I carry around from the world’s influence on my life. Yes, He washed Judas’ feet, then Judas walked on those feet to the Jewish leaders and betrayed Him. Jesus also washed the feet of 10 others that would use those feet to flee the scene of His Crucifixion, of them Peter’s feet which would be used to walk from denial to denial to denial. Sure, maybe I can be John in the story and walk with my feet to the Cross, 1/10,000 times. But lets be honest – 9,999 times – I’m not.

I approach Christ with my feet for renewal and for a freshness only He can provide. Sadly I approach Him and my feet are already devising their next sprint in the opposite direction of Him. The end of St Cyril’s comment is the point of all this though. Jesus, fully God, is omniscient – He knows everything prior to its happening. So He knows I will leave. He knows I will deny. He knows I will betray. He knew the disciples would do what they did. BUT He knew they’d walk back to Him with those feet that He cleaned.

God never views us on account of our future sins. If He did, He would be constantly saddened for the sins that we will commit. Rather, God looks to us with the potential we have in Him. With hopes that I will use my will to get back to Him. To unite myself with Him. Interesting thought?

My dad was always probably more strict than your dad, and I love him so much for that. But if he treated 6-year-old-me with the struggle and heartache in mind that I would provide him (so generously) over the next 20 years of my upbringing, he would never crack a smile. He’d always be disappointed. My childhood would have been miserable as he would NEVER trust me. All would be tainted by my issues to come. Parents however, look to their children with a love, knowing that regardless of the coming difficulty there is hope and potential to grow. God gives us this benefit even with His infinite knowledge. 

Guys and gals, 1thingisneeded over this next few days till we celebrate the Holy Resurrection. Experience His cleansing of our souls Thursday with the Holy Communion, put our old ways on the Cross on Friday, and rise with Him anew on Sunday morning. 

Thank You God for Your immense love, to cleanse us regardless of our past, present, or future. We have hope in You alone, our awesome future with You is what You await, so let us start today.

The end of the chapter has a verse that reminds me of an old song we sang as kids. I hope I can apply it and keep His commandment to wash the feet of others as well.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 NKJV)

“Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love…”

1thingisneeded – experience His washing, and use our feet to walk towards Him. All our heart, soul, strength, & mind. In that walk, we are to love others as He loved us. Not looking to who they are now, but to their potential in Christ Jesus. Only then, will the world know we are His disciples.

                                                                

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