17.5 John – Grace

It has come up a lot this week, but I want to go back to some of the principles brought out in last week’s lesson in regard to the notion of “dying to self”, but specifically in the area of “leadership with grace.”

When we think of leadership we think of delegation.  It is a matter of getting the right people with the right talents in the right place and getting them the resources and direction needed to excel.  You divide things into a grid, make nice little boxes on the org chart and fill those boxes.

Using a tool analogy, you look for the right people to fit into the right holes.  The position of the leader is above, putting together the pieces, but also using coaching and incentives and constructive feedback to shape the person to better fit the hole, sanding off some rough edges or cutting off bad habits or gluing on some training.

But the position Jesus demonstrates for the disciples and for us to follow is more.  He is not simply up above arranging the pieces, but he also takes on the role of forklift or jack, to raise up those he leads.  He doesn’t just look at the outside, but works on the inside.  He isn’t about hammering someone into a position, but in lifting them up to do more and greater.

This is a hard example to swallow for a leader because it means you are constantly helping lift people to move on.  You are developing people not to stay in a role, but to go out into new roles.  You are preparing the members of the church to leave and start new churches, to be missionaries, to go be leaders.  You are shaping your employees to become managers themselves in other organizations.  This is more work for the leader.  It seems easier to just hold onto the same people and keep them in the same roles – but that is how all oppression begins, by leaders doing the easier thing instead of the right thing.  Dying to self doesn’t just mean giving up your time, it means giving up your people, too.  It means growing your kids to go out in the world and be their own followers of Jesus.  It means constantly opening your circle of friends and associates rather than settling in with the same old small group.  It means paying the price with your work for someone else to grow and be lifted up.

But isn’t that what grace is all about?  I’ve heard the acronym that grace is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.  Jesus paid it all, we reap the rewards of being lifted up to holiness.

My Answers:

I learn servant leadership.  I learn acceptance of God’s direction and plans even when I don’t like the plan.  I see Jesus’ grace in allowing Judas to make the choice he did – The other disciples would have restrained him with only a whisper.  I see Jesus love for His disciples and for us.

I think they began to see the depth of His words and the layers of meaning.  I think they saw more about Jesus and Judas in the next hours.  I think they learned more about themselves.  And, as the church was forming, they learned to apply the teachings of this night – even to those they believed too unclean to have ever associated with before (people like me).

17.4 John – Evil has no new tricks

As I thought about the way Judas gave himself over to Satan, I was drawn to the actions of evil today.  Not to show too much of my inner-geek, but these actions are exactly the same steps that hackers use today.  Hacking is normally not a sledge-hammer approach.  It more commonly happens by probing along the perimeter of a network.  It tests for open ports on a firewall.  It looks for vulnerabilities in systems that have not been maintained.  It looks for weak passwords for carelessness.  It tempts action through phishing emails, luring someone to click a link or allow a download to occur.  It works through lies and deceit, using Trojans that appear harmless but secretly are harmful.  It can be targeted but most of the time it is simply trolling the internet looking for any opening anywhere.  Malicious programs are launched and go from IP address to address across devices and across nations.  Once inside the network, it is patient, lying in wait until it begins to take action.  It tries to spread through connections of one infected system to other connected systems in its network.

These are all the same tricks Satan used.  The fact that the disciples had no idea which of them would betray Jesus demonstrates both the quietness with which evil penetrated Judas, but also the fact that they all had likely been probed and tempted.

We all have weaknesses.  We all have sin in our lives.  We all have areas of our life that lack maintenance in fasting and reading the scripture and daily prayer.  But it is not of our own strength that we resist the probes of wickedness, it is only by the protection of the Holy Spirit.

One of the great reassurance is found in 1 Cor 10:13.  “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful…”  Satan has no new tricks.  There is no temptation in the world except the same old common temptations that have been around since the garden of Eden.  Satan has no ability to create anything new and nothing more powerful in reserve.  The worst he has at his disposal is the same old tricks that God has thwarted over and over and over again.

We are wise to protect our hearts, but it is not our work or our action that provides the real protection, it is putting our faith in God and the mighty power of our Savior and the Holy Spirit.

My Answers:

The fulfillment of prophecy is not simply a broad overview that could apply to Jesus but might also apply to many other things.  It is specific, down to the fulfillment of the one who ate was the one who would betray Him.  This shows me the cyclical nature of time and how events overlay and overlay as foreshadows of each other.  Jesus did not shy away from what He knew was coming because He knew and trusted in God.  David goes on to say that God is gracious to him and lifts him up and delights in him and upholds him and sets him in His presence for over.  He does the same for us.

Satan is prowling to harm and destroy anything created by God and particularly anything associated with God.  He asks to sift us like wheat.  he tests and prods and looks for weaknesses to exploit.  He seeks only harm and hatred.  He lies and is the father of all lies.

17.3 John – Connection

Our questions today discuss “humbly serving.”  While I believe we are called to humbly serve, I think we are called to more than that.  There are a number of people and organizations that “serve”.  Some do it for a living, such as waitresses and waiters and care givers in hospitals and nursing facilities.  There are some that do it financially.  Some as part of a community organization.  Some who do it as a requirement for community service hours.  But, if we really look at Jesus act of washing the disciples feet, it was more than humble service… it was making a connection.

Jesus didn’t just place himself at their feet.  He reached out and touched them.  He cleansed them with his hands.  He stripped himself down of his outer garments and became personally connected with them.  I think this is a big part of why this act resonates with us so much.  We don’t need a God who spends His time washing our feet – we don’t need a God who serves us.  We do desire with all of our hearts a God who connects with us, who is intimate with us and fills our souls with love.

This is the difference between true Christ-Like service and most of the service men provide, it is the connection.  It is far more than drive-by service.  It is not just a service penance that makes us feel better because we help those people, them, over there.  To be truly Christ like there isn’t a them and us, there is just a connected unity of us, the church, children of God.  It has to build connections, build communities that we are a part of not separate from.  Not just something we do to help but something we do with love for our God and for the person we are serving.

Think about where the disciples’ eyes would have been throughout this.  They would have been watching their Lord, the Messiah, tendering loving them and gazing back up into their faces, not in pain or disgust over their gnarly feet, but in an overflowing of love and compassion.  Psalm 145:8-9 says, “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”

Could you use a little more grace, love and compassion in your life?  You know exactly where to look.  He is waiting with a towel around him, waiting to wipe away your tears and your sins.

My Answers:

He is God.  He is their teacher.  He is the Lord, the Messiah, the center of all prophecy, and He got down and scrubbed the grime from their feet- a job for the lowliest of servants.  I learn that humility and service is the model of Jesus.  That our place as His followers is not to stand on and above others to oppress them for our gain, but to get down and lift them up

To children.  To wait patiently for His direction and calling.  To be anonymous in some actions.

It brings me closer to the Lord.  I see insights in the scripture I would not see with a lofty chin and stiff neck.  I see more and more of Jesus’ love.  I see how much He humbled himself and how low I truly am (no boasting).

17.2 John – Love to the end

I love the story of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples.  There are so many amazing elements to it and such depth.  The fact that he was moved to do this mid meal.  The fact that he tied the towel around his waist so that the filth he removed from them was attached to himself.  The fact that even Judas received the blessing (and the offer of forgiveness inherent in it).

I’ve seen great leaders emulate the washing of feet.  I’ve seen church leaders do it.  I recognize it is the beginning of a business and civic mindset called servant leadership.

But in all of those things and all those reenactments or applications, it is easy to miss the most important part.  Look hard at the last sentence in John 13:1, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

This act wasn’t just a teaching moment.  It wasn’t just a foreshadowing.  It wasn’t just a living parable.  More than any of those things, it was an act of love.  He didn’t have to wash their feet, they had already come in and gone through all of the normal preparations before beginning a meal.  He was moved to do it out of love.

When we emulate this activity and serve others, do we do it to show others that we are “like Jesus”?  If so, are we truly like Jesus, doing it in pure love for the person?

It is an act like caring for an elderly dying parent.  It is an act like sacrificing your life for another.  It is a total giving of self, of letting go, to flow out to others.  There is nothing Jesus gains from this act, but He is moved to it purely in love.  Love to the end!

My Answers:

He demonstrated servant leadership.  He, the Lord, was willing to wash the feet of each of the disciples at the table (even the one He knew was going to betray Him).  He didn’t have to do this, but chose to – in the same way He chose to die for us.

Those who have accepted Christ are clean (saved), but still need to repent of daily sins.  All but Judas had accepted Christ into them, but he had chosen Satan instead.  I am cleaned by the blood of the lamb who died on the cross for my sins, but I still commit sins in both the things I do and say and the things I fail to do or say.  Of those I need daily (hourly) cleaning through confession and repentance.