Sensitivity Across the Room
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Introduction: When Jesus washed the disciples= feet, no rules of nature were suspended or over-ridden. It is deemed a non-miracle, but so remarkable, surprising, and awe-inspiring, that it is as marvelous as a miracle. It was, as it were, a miracle of illustration, stunningly showing us what we are to do for people across the room.
John 13:1-4 (Holman) Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. Now by the time of supper, the Devil had already put it into the heart of Judas, Simon Iscariot=s son, to betray Him. Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into His hands, that He had come from God, and that He was going back to God. So He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself.
Before Jesus and the Twelve could eat, the lowest in rank among them was to wash the others= feet. This presented a problem, for they had been arguing about who was the greatest among them (Luke 22:24). Bickering about their own greatness in the presence of the Lord of the Universe showed just how small and frail they actually were.
When no one volunteered to take the lowly position of washing feet, Jesus surveyed the situation and decided it was time for a lesson. Taking the slave=s role, Jesus did the foot washing Himself. On this night, Jesus let someone else set the agenda for Him. As Christians, we always need to be sensitive, on call. Be watching and praying, ALord, at this moment, it=s not about me. Who is it about?@
As Jesus served them, everyone was stunned by what they saw. John, 60 years later, could still remember each minute detail. The account recorded in our text was the recollection of an astonished eye-witness.
The whole scene was surreal. The contrast was overwhelming B God surrounded by Galilean fishermen. Jesus had passed by angels, kings, and sages to choose unlettered men as His companions. He loved them though they were ambitious, cowardly, dull, prejudiced, quarrelsome, skeptical, selfish, treacherous, unloving, and weak, among other things. By picking companions like this, He showed He is willing to choose anyone, including us. On this night He blessed them, though they didn=t deserve it. Do we want people to deserve our blessing?
Jesus also loves us though we are unworthy. Jesus loved the disciples and us enough to come to them and us. Do we care enough to go to others who have the same flaws they had, and we have? The disciples had failures aplenty, as do the people we need to cross the room to bless.
One, the disciples were pious. While Jesus was denying Himself, contemplating the cross, His followers were clamoring for prestige, bickering about which of them was the greatest. Did Jesus reject them? No! He crossed the room, and knelt to wash their feet.
We often find ourselves in settings with people who are filled with pride. Are we willing to love them enough to walk toward them, to overlook their arrogance?
Two, the disciples had limited understanding. After the resurrection, they still thought Jesus was going to establish a physical earthly kingdom. Christ nevertheless left them to be His witnesses to the world. Though they were slow learners, Jesus blessed them.
We too need to go to people who know little, who are clueless about spiritual matters. We=ll never know any group of people who knew less about Jesus than our unreached people group, the Dong of China, knew. Many of them have come to faith. Others will too if we=ll walk across the room to engage them.
Three, the disciples displayed weak faith. On this very night Philip, who had walked three years with Jesus, demanded more evidence, ALord, show us the Father, and that=s enough for us@ (JN 14:8). Do we know people we think could never have enough faith to receive salvation? Don=t let their little faith reduce your faith and keep you from walking across the room to engage them in conversation.
Four, the disciples were unkind. James and John wanted to call fire out of Heaven to destroy a whole city. Jesus rebuked them, but retained them as His dearest friends. Even Judas could not escape his love. Jesus made Him treasurer, gave him a seat of honor at the Last Supper, and called him Afriend@ (MT 26:50) after the betrayal.
Have unbelievers we know been unkind? Do we think they are beyond God=s love? However harsh, cruel, mean, or caustic people are, our job is to walk their direction to be a blessing.
Five, the disciples were fearful. AAll the disciples forsook Him, and fled@ (MT 26:56). Their desertion was surely as sharp a pain to Jesus as His crown of thorns, but He continued to love them. Do we know unbelievers we think would never have enough courage to stand against their peers? Is there an unbeliever we think would always be too weak to stand strong? That=s not our call. Go to them in love. Walk their way anyway.
Six, the disciples sinned. Peter rebuked Jesus, who responded by calling him ASatan@ (MT 16:21-23). Peter denied the Lord openly, and cursed. But when Jesus left the tomb, He commanded the angel to mention Peter by name. The angel told the ladies, ATell Peter Jesus wants to see him in Galilee@ (MK 16:7). Jesus later chose Peter to preach the sermon at Pentecost. Do you know someone who is a Ahuge sinner@? Is their sin any worse than our keeping Jesus a secret? Are they vulgar, evil, yea blasphemous? Go to them anyway.
Our Lord was the essence of constancy, the embodiment of unchanging love. He refused to cease being a blessing. We must also never give up.
When Christ humbled Himself and walked across the room, He dignified humility, and put honor on it. Our Lord washed feet; we should be willing to do the same, to perform the lowliest service. This was important to Jesus.
The church is full of people who are standing on their dignity when they ought to be kneeling at the feet of others. He walked across the room to be a blessing. Could we do the same? Could we walk into a room and say to ourselves, AIt=s not about me; there may be someone here who needs what I have@? Could we pass up the strong, ones who could help we climb the ladder, in order to help someone on a lower rung of the ladder than we=re on?
Go and talk to the bed-ridden. Speak comfort to the miserable. Speak a kind word to the children. Point out the way to a wayward one. Not every walk across the room has to be a soulwinning encounter, a four-spiritual-laws at the ready, I=m-gonna-evangelize someone kind of encounter. Much of the time the need is to walk across the room.
Simply to care for someone, to give their personhood value and significance by just warmly greeting them and taking time and energy to invest a moment or several in connecting with them. They may be a believer that the Lord would have a smile or word of encouragement for. They may not know our Lord and need His Presence in us to bless them and perhaps lead them to Him in small or eternally-changing ways.
Walking across the room may not just be in some Apagan@-filled secular gathering. It might be walking across the Atrium or the Worship Center.