Ah Jesus, I See What You Did There

(Photo Credit: Fergal Mac Eoinin)

The youth group has been talking about things Jesus left us. We’ve been exploring the meaning behind symbols that Jesus created for his followers- symbols he meant to continually shape the identity of the Christian community.

We discussed the beauty of baptism in its metaphoric death and rebirth.  Then we came together to remember the body and blood of Christ in communion, anticipating the day when we’ll drink of the cup at table with him.

We talked about how many Protestant traditions hold up these two symbols, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, as the “sacraments” Jesus ordained for his followers to keep.  Then we talked about something else… something like a third symbol:

It was the night before a huge Jewish festival and the disciples had gathered to celebrate at the dinner table.  They were talking amongst each other, laughing, eating, and carrying on.  Simon was telling his usual jokes and James was brightening up the room with his full-throated laughs.  Jesus was there too, but he seemed preoccupied with something, which wasn’t too out of the ordinary.  His disciples had seen him get lost in thought like that before.

James roughly coughed out a laugh while drinking his wine and everyone erupted in laughter.

Jesus knew what was coming. He had known for a while, but it seemed closer now.  He realized that he didn’t have much time left- he still had so much to teach to these followers and friends.

Jesus got up from the table and went to the kitchen.  After a few minutes, he returned with a servant’s towel and a bowl of water.

He smiled as the disciples looked at him, their confusion showing obviously on their faces.  He couldn’t help but chuckle as he felt their confusion turn to an awkward silence when he knelt down to wash their feet.

Jesus washed their feet one by one and dried them with the towel he was wearing. Then he returned the towel and bowl to the kitchen, sat back down at the table, and swallowed some wine.

“Do you understand what I’ve done for you?” He loved this part of being a rabbi.  He loved helping people question their own understandings of the world and reason together with them toward different possibilities.

“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 am your master after all, he thought.  I only hope that you’ll remember this and some day teach your own followers this sort of leadership.  Show them how powerful this really is.

Allen Marshall O'Brien

Allen Marshall O’Brien is the pastor of a UCC church in Northern California and co-host of the Irenicast. He believes in the importance of education, peace, and ecology, throws things to his border collie Sonata, and writes for multiple platforms.

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