Thursday, April 2, 2015

Follow, Even When You Don't Want To

Maundy Thursday 2015

Tonight, we have run through the 13th chapter of the Gospel of John.
It has covered the evening with Jesus and his disciples.They have broken bread together, had a meal, washed some feet and had some discourse. The disciples have watched as Jesus call out his betrayer. Jesus gives and shares with Judas just like he would have done with any of them. There is a time for looking ahead at what will come down the path next. One of them wants to follow, but he is told that he will deny Jesus before the night is through. 

This chapter, at it's core, is mostly chocked full of things we don't want to hear. 
If we stop and put ourselves in the shoes of the people actually hearing Jesus' words we find ourselves in a place where we are asked to love others, wash their feet, share with those who betray us, and deal with the heartache of those who can't support us. 

It's a bunch of stuff we don't want to hear. 

Who actually wants to get down on their knees and be the lowliest servant in the house?
That's what Jesus is portraying to his disciples in this moment. The lowliest servant in the house is the one who gets the 'honor' of going out with a basin and towel. This servant gets down on his/her knees and goes, one by one, around the table until all have had their feet refreshed and cleansed from the dirt and dust of a long hard day. It occurs to me as I put this message together that Jesus maybe has been hanging on to this idea for a long time. Ever since he was disrespected at Simon the Pharisee's house. When no one came and washed Jesus' feet as he sat there and he endured their ridicule instead; it was the tears and hair of a lowly woman who needed forgiveness that came and washed his feet. She didn't even live there. She just barged in and did what she felt she had to do. Now, Jesus is doing what he feels he has to do in order to help his disciples see just who precious they are in the sight of God. He is heading to his death. And, in this fleeting moment, he takes time to teach them that their sins are forgiven before they have even committed them. Before they even realize they needed the forgiveness. Who wants to hear that there is sin in their life? Who wants to hear that they will fail before the moment has even arrived? Who wants to be put in the uncomfortable place of having to be the lowliest servant, meeting the needs of those who probably don't understand or even care that they need it?

How many of us have dealt with betrayal? Is there someone in your life who didn't keep a confidence or a word you shared with them? You told them not to tell anyone else. You told them because you thought they were your friend. You asked them to be your friend because you thought they would always be there beside you through thick and thin. Then the trust was betrayed. An indecent proposal exchanged. A moment of hurt and anguish that you never thought you would happen into. Jesus knows. He picked these twelve men knowing their hearts. He knows the limitless possibilities the human heart can choose to go. Maybe he thinks or hopes Judas won't do it. The problem seems to be that if Judas didn't do then someone else would. The story or script for Jesus' life seems to be written this way. Someone would have to rat him out to the religious authorities. Knowing full well who he dealing with Jesus still offers his grace and fellowship. He breaks bread with him. He drops his sop into the cup just like Judas. This signifies to all who his betrayer is. But, it also gives Judas one last chance. Don't we all want just one last chance? One last time to make things right. One last moment to turn things around before the train rails over the cliff and into oblivion. The thing is - we have to put our hearts on the line, one last time, in order to give that person a chance. The pain we have to go through in giving that chance makes us wonder if it's worth it. And, then we realize, we need the same forgiveness in our own lives. We need the same chances that everybody else needs. So, we choose not focus it all on ourselves. We focus it outward. We trust that God will take the person, that situation, that hurt, into His hands. It's not about us. It's about God. He is the healer of all hurts.

The last thing we don't want to hear and we don't want to do is give people the freedom to go the way they are going. That's what I see Jesus doing with Peter. Jesus could have protected Peter. He could have kept him from the moment. But, he doesn't. Peter objects to the idea that he will deny Jesus. Like a parent talking to a teenager, Jesus has to be shaking his head. If you only knew... Yes, if Peter only knew what lie ahead. So many of us have no idea what's coming down the road. And, in our arrogance we think we know it all already, have all the answers already, can make our own plans and decide our own fates. How many of us had a parent who stood there with arms crossed, shaking their head, looking at us with that eyebrow of scorn? I'm taken to that moment in the movie Lean On Me with Morgan Freeman. He has the freshman named "Sams" on the roof, telling him to jump.
"The trouble with teenagers is you don't know nothing. The problem with teenagers is you think you know more than people who have already been down the road you're going down."
 I can see Peter and Sams both standing their pleading. Sams wants back in to high school. Peter just wants to go with Jesus, stating that he would follow Jesus to his death. Jesus knows better. He knows that Peter's resolve will fail him. He knows that there will be a moment when he doesn't make it. The questions will come and so will the denial. Of all the kids that could have come back and pleaded for their chance to get back into school, the only we hear about is Sams. Principal Clark threw many kids out. Does that mean they couldn't come back and ask for a second chance? Clark gave Sams a second chance. The truth I see Jesus trying to convey to his followers, especially Peter, is that he knows their potential to fail. He also knows that once they have realized they are at their lowest point, they can wake up, get up, and stumble back to find hat they need. Kicking those kids out of the school, a thing that Joe Clark actually did in real life, was a chance for many of them to wake up and realize that they had messed up. God allows us to fall flat on our faces. He knows what we are about to do and allows us to do it. Can we give people the same freedom? To screw up? To make mistakes? To, most likely, get it wrong, and then rise up, come to their senses and have the epiphany they so desperately need? That takes a bit of surrender, on our part. Jesus has the wherewithal to allow Peter to fail. Later, Peter would look down at his feet. He would remember the night in the upper room. He would have his epiphany. And, things would be be made right again.

Have you heard anything tonight that you don't want to hear?
Have you heard anything that you might need to approach God and find forgiveness on?
Have you felt the tug at your heart that God wants to talk with you for a moment?

He might tell you something you don't want to hear. He might tell you something that will make it all better. And, you might find that second chances are exactly what tonight is all about.

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