God leads

– Holy Thursday –

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ [John 13:1-8a]

A reflection on this text would be remiss if it did not at least mention humble service as the paradigm for Christian leadership. Christian leadership is only authentic when it participates in the servant leadership of Jesus Christ. Christian leaders who act in another way are failing in their vocation.

That attends to the obvious. More interesting for our purposes is this conversation between Jesus and Peter. In an apparent rush of humility, Peter resists having Jesus wash his feet. The exchange is a reminder of how difficult it is to accept that the life Christ offers us is primarily something he does in, to, and for us. We tend to default back to thinking we are in charge. This encounter reminds us that our role is largely to receive and respond to what God is doing and not the other way around.

It seems so simple and yet how quickly we revert as we seek to tell God how we think he should proceed. We are reminded of Peter’s intervention during the Transfiguration, where he proposes to put up tents for everyone, seemingly unable to await instructions (Matthew 17). Telling God what to do is so much easier than undergoing the spiritual conversion required so that we can learn to hear what God is asking of us.

We avoid it because we do not know how to begin, and we worry that it might lead where we would preferably not go (John 21:18). That is alright. Just keep sitting quietly before God and await instructions. God knows what he is doing.

by Shane Dwyer

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