How Many Times?

The setting is solemn; it’s before Passover and Jesus has humbled Himself before his disciples and humbled His disciples all with one act.  He pulls a towel around his waste and takes the basin of water.  The teacher is going to teach through his actions this lesson that will never be forgotten.  Jesus begins to wash the dirty dusty feet of His disciples as they recline at the table.  He is working; they are not.  He is doing what they should have done for him.

We aren’t told how many feet of His disciples had been washed before one of them interrupts their Master.  Peter, recognizing that this is all backwards, questions Jesus.  In essence he is telling Jesus not to wash his feet.  This is one of those acts that I refer to as inverted pride, when pride masks itself in a form of humility but, in reality, is only trying to hide it’s self.  However, Peter’s pride isn’t able to hide from Jesus.

Jesus simply replied to Peter, “You don’t understand yet what I’m doing, but you’ll know afterwards.”  Of course Peter tries to save himself with some more foolish comments, to which Jesus simply takes him to school and gently puts this disciple in his place.  I would love to think that Peter got it right after all this, but the truth is, later in the same chapter, we find this same disciple at it again.  This time it’s even worse …. just read the chapter and connect the lines of thought.

Now here is the thing that really penetrated me so deeply as I read these words this morning.  How many times am I just like Peter?  I observe the actions of my Lord and object to them because I realize that I got it wrong.  He is working when I should be working.  He is doing for me what I should be doing for Him.  And instead of being humbled by it all, pride wells up in some inverted way within me and tries to fool the teacher.  And when called out, in such a gentle way, pride rears its head, fully exposed, and goes for the whole enchilada.

People are funny this way.  When others around them get this whole loving one another thing correct that person’s pride keeps them from really learning.  Rather than simply being humbled by the loving actions of another and receiving the lesson from them, they allow pride to block the beauty of the moment.  Everyone loses when love gets interrupted.

Of course, this is never about you or me; it’s always another person who struggles with such things.  Maybe we can share it on our newsfeed or retweet it so the rest of the world can see it.  As for you and me, we would be more like John or Andrew who must have gotten it right the first time, because they aren’t the ones being talked about … Peter is.

Today I am humbled by the thoughts of times in my life when Jesus tried to help me stop sinning with my mouth, actions, or spirit by saying, “You don’t understand yet what I’m doing, but you’ll know afterwards.”  Think I will just stop talking now to listen and watch.  Peace.

Image(The above thoughts are based on the Gospel of John 13.)

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

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Being Tested?

ImageReading in John 6, I found myself struck by an interaction between Jesus and His disciples.  Specifically, it was an interaction between Jesus, Phillip, and Andrew.  We find Jesus along the Sea of Galilee with a large crowd gathering around Him.  Going up onto the mountainside Jesus sits down to talk with His disciples.  Let’s take a look at what is said.

John 6:5–9 (NLT)  Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.

Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money* to feed them!”

Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”

There was an obvious problem in front of them.  The time of the Passover festival was about to start, and they were entertaining a large crowd.  Who has a party without plenty of food?  So Jesus turns to Phillip for the answer, asking, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?”  Think about it.  Why would Jesus ask Phillip such a question?  They all saw the impossibility of the situation.   But this is it isn’t what captured me as I read the text.

What caught hold of me in that moment was verse 6, where it says, He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.”  I’m not sure that I like this thought… Jesus tests us to see what we are going to do.  But it is right there on the page and we, each and every one of us, have to deal with it.

Jesus knew where He was at in this thing; He knew what He was going to do, He knew the answer.  The real question being asked had nothing to do with bread to feed a bunch of people.  In this moment with His disciples (and I think Jesus could have tossed any of their names into the mix) Jesus was asking about where they placed their faith.  He was probing them to see if they could see beyond the circumstances that could serve as blinders or as an opportunity for a miracle.  Which way would they see this situation?

Phillip responds with the impossible; it would take 6 months’ wages to take care of this problem.  Translated, get feeding them out of your mind because we don’t have that kind of money, and even if we did, we couldn’t get that much bread.  It is doubly impossible according to Phillip.

Andrew does a little bit better but then fumbles it in the end.  He notices that there is a boy there with a little bit of food.  But that is the problem for Andrew:  it is a little bit of food, and he can’t see it being of any value.  Andrew doesn’t do any better than Phillip did with the question.

This made me think about the many times in my life where Jesus asks me similar questions… where the circumstances either serve as blinders to my spirit or as opportunity providers.  And as I thought about this for a little bit it struck me that most of the time my answers sound far too much like Phillip and Andrew rather than the one Jesus offered.  Thinking the way that Jesus thinks is not always easy in the context of a real world.  You would think that after observing the many times where we see how circumstances provide opportunity that we would naturally think this way.  But we don’t, and therein lies the problem.

The reality is that this life provides us with just as many examples where Jesus hasn’t intervened in our circumstances, at least not in a way we took notice of or in a way we liked.  These real life situations have a way of eroding all the faith that builds up in those special moments where Christ takes us to the extraordinary.  And so we are left with a dilemma each time circumstances arrive where we are given the choice of blinders or opportunity.  Is this one of those special moments or not?  We ask ourselves over and over, trying to get the answer right.  Wanting to hope but fearful of disappointment.

What if we rested in a faith that is focused on Christ as the object of faith rather than what Christ will do as the object of our faith?  Would that make facing such circumstances a little easier and less stressful?  I propose that it would.  It would make it natural to have the faith of a child, which Jesus calls us to.  We look at the situation, then we look at Jesus, and we leave the answer up to Him.  Instead of trying to figure out how many months’ wages it will take or if the little bit of bread and fish we have can get the job done, we turn our attention to Jesus who doesn’t seem to be limited by these things.

The next time an obvious problem presents itself pause for a moment and remind yourself that this problem can serve to give you blinders or opportunity.  The choice is up to you, while the outcome reaches far beyond you.  Choose well!

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.