I’m in a Bible Study that meets every Thursday night. Most of us are mothers and all of us are women, but when we started our only common thread was the woman whose house we meet in. Ms. Ava knew some of us from church and some of us from other parts of her life, but she invited all of us to come sit on her couch once a week and talk about life through the filter of Jesus. We’ve been meeting for more than two years—a newborn Ellie accompanied me to the very first one. Over the years, we’ve developed our own bonds of sisterhood as we’ve helped each other navigate through births, losses, hard decisions, and bad news.
For the past several weeks, we’ve been studying the book of John. I will confess my disappointment when this was chosen for our study—John has never been my favorite writer in the Bible. I find him flowery and descriptive, with all his talk about Light and Life, vines and branches. Matthew and Luke have always been my preferred gospels, grounded in facts and the fulfillment of prophecy. John frustrates me, and because of that I find myself getting frustrated with Jesus.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)
So … capital letter—Jesus is the word? What word? Jesus is the Bible? Jesus is God? THIS IS WHAT YOU START WITH, JOHN?
“Then they asked him, ‘Where is your father?’ ‘You do not know me or my Father,’ Jesus replied. ‘If you knew me, you would know my Father also.'” (John 8:19)
HEAVEN, Jesus. Your Father is GOD and He’s in HEAVEN. As I tell my children, USE YOUR WORDS, JESUS.
There are a lot of shouty capitals when I read John.
My frustration with John (and Jesus) takes me all the way to the Upper Room on Thursday night during Holy Week. Jesus has spent the day explaining to his disciples that where He’s about to go they cannot follow (just tell them you’re dying, Jesus) and that one of them is about to betray him (Jesus, tell them it’s Judas. Someone will stop him—my money is on Peter).
I empathize with the disciples and the way they keep missing the point of Jesus’ stories.
Me too, guys. Just say what you mean, Jesus. Stop dancing around the metaphors and the parables and the answering of questions with another question. How is this supposed to help my faith? I’ve been in the church since I was weeks old; I’ve heard every story and know every character, and even I’m wondering how it’s possible to have faith in someone who can’t answer a simple question in a straight manner. Can’t He just SHOW us what he means?
And then, He does.
They’re about to eat when Jesus wraps a towel around his waist and gets a bowl of water and a pile of rags. He kneels before his friends and takes their dusty, calloused feet in his hands. One by one, he washes them.
Yes, Jesus washed the feet of the man who would betray him. I wonder what Judas felt like during those moments. Did he feel loved? Known? Guilty? We know little about Judas, but sometimes I wonder if it’s this scene that played over and over in his mind when he tried to unravel his betrayal. When he found it couldn’t be undone and he tied his own noose.
Not everyone knows what to do with that kind of love, I guess.
They say that John was the last one to write his gospel. He knew what Matthew, Mark and Luke had written by the time he wrote his, which means he included the story about Jesus washing feet, knowing they’d left it out.
Clearly it meant something to John, and it’s everything to me. It redeems the confusing metaphors and analogies, because he finally captures one that couldn’t be more clear.
Jesus takes the dirtiest parts of us, and makes them clean. When he commanded us to love one another, he didn’t specify who the “other” was, but he didn’t have to. He’d already shown us.
Not everyone knows what to do with that kind of love, though. Sometimes it’s hard enough to love and serve our family, our friends. Washing the feet of the person who has hurt me the most? I don’t know how to do that. I don’t even know where to start.
But then, I remember that Jesus showed me that part, too.
It begins with getting on my knees.