Monday, April 25, 2016

"As I have loved you..." (John 13:34)

When you think of this most meaningful "as" ever uttered, what scene or scenes come to mind?

As...he called us his friends.

As...he preached a mountainside sermon
and lived a life which turned the world right-side up.
As..he reclaimed all the lost and marginalized,
like so many lepers and tax collectors and prostitutes.

As...he fed thousands and gave himself as the Bread of Life.

As...he revealed that we were no longer orphans,
but gave us his Father as our Father.

As...he forgave those who torture and murder him. 

As...he poured out his own heart and Spirit onto his disciples.

Jesus' "as" involves both a modeling and an empowering: The gift of his example is not some isolated and untouchable way of life precisely because his grace enables his disciples to turn the ideal into the real. This is the only explanation for the saints through the centuries who have loved as he loved, in a myriad of different situations and places.

In the thirteenth chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus' "as" is preceded by the striking scene of the footwashing. This dramatic gesture speaks of the "as" in terms of Jesus love for us precisely in our vulnerability, through our lack of understanding, despite our protests and prideful pleas to have the Master love us only on our terms.

The "as" of the footwashing also displays the depths of Jesus' humility, as he takes the form of the slave. It reminds us that love is literally a matter of doing the dirty work. It demonstrates the priority of serving over being served, and foreshadows the Lord's self-emptying unto death.

After the Risen Lord restores Peter to his role as the rock with his threefold profession of faith and forgiveness ("You know that I love you..."), the leader of the twelve will be sent to feed his lambs and tend his flock. But Peter will always do so as a footwasher who remembers how gently the Lord handled his gnarly feet and purified precisely that which was most unclean.

Having pondered his own experience the night before Jesus died, Peter will wash others as the Lord had washed him.  He will tie a proverbial towel around his waist and meet people in all their awkwardness and brokenness and confusion. Indeed, Peter will allow the Footwasher to work in and through him.

As...He continues to love us, until the end of the age.