On the last night of Jesus’ earthly ministry he gathers with his disciples to observe the Passover meal. But first he does something scandalous—Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, a task normally reserved for servants. Jesus knows his power: God has put him in charge of all things. Yet he lays aside that power and takes on the role of a servant. Jesus is aware that in the morning he will head to Calvary, where he will die on the cross for the sins of humanity. He also is aware that Judas, Peter, and the others will fail him in his darkest hour. None of this clouds his love or his service to these men. In his mercy, he treats them all as if they already are forgiven.
Loving as Jesus loves means taking on the role of a servant by caring for the needs of others without expecting anything in return. He shows us that we are to do this service not only for those who treat us well but also for those who disappoint us, hurt us, and even betray us. Does Jesus really expect us to love and serve people who harm us? Are there no exceptions to this rule of loving servanthood? Loving one another doesn’t mean we must feel affection for others. It means that we are to act in a loving way, even when we would rather not.
We may never achieve the level of God’s perfect love, but we can let go of grudges and respond to hurtful behavior with kindness and gentleness. This kind of love and forgiveness is only possible because of the one who loves us fully and completely, the one who loves us to the end, even to the cross and grave and back.
O God, your will for us is that we lovingly serve others. Thank you that your mercy includes all of us who fail at this task in ways large and small and yet are forgiven to try again. Amen.
Although we anticipate the celebration of Easter, this week’s readings remind us to slow down and walk through the suffering of Jesus. If we fail to understand why he has to die, then we fail to grasp fully the power of his resurrection. Monday’s passage in Isaiah anticipates the Messiah, the Anointed One, coming to bring justice to the nations. Tuesday’s Psalm laments that sometimes the righteous are met with scorn. The Hebrews passage for Wednesday declares that Christ knows of the suffering that awaits him, yet he endures it because of the joy to come. On Thursday, the reading in John shows us that even when facing death, Jesus continues to model selfless love. Friday brings pain and rejection, but Sunday is the greatest day in human history. He is risen indeed!
Read John 13:1-7, 31b-35. Consider someone who has disappointed, hurt, or betrayed you whom God might be calling you to love. How could a posture of service help you act in a loving way even if you cannot feel affection for this person?
Read Isaiah 52:13-53:12. How does this description of a suffering servant help you more fully understand Jesus’ suffering on the cross?
Read Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24. When has grief felt like mercy? When has noticing you are alive felt like a miracle?
Read Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24. Recall a time you forgot how to sing God’s praises despite the joy around you. How did God provide the song?
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