Embody the Message
What would you do if you knew for a fact that tonight would be your last night on earth?
If it were me I would probably get my family and closest friends together and reminisce about old times. I would want it to be a special gathering that celebrates me and all I had done in my life; a glorified pity party of sorts where people could be sad for me and communicate to me how much they will miss me when I am gone. Surely I would not expect to serve them dinner or wash the dishes. It's my last dinner, not theirs.
But when I am look at Jesus's last dinner, I am astounded. In John 13 Jesus knows that He is about to leave the world, and not in a graceful or immediate fashion. He knows that one of his closest friends is about to betray him in a few hours, and he is no doubt feeling the emotional turmoil of the impending crucifixion. A cosmic battle is raging on in the background as Jesus looks to reverse the effects of sin and death for those who are most deserving of it.
Additionally we have learned that Jesus is not any ordinary man. He is the Word who was with God in the Beginning. The one by whom and for whom all things were made, and without him creation would be nonexistent. In Jesus we see the fullness of God wrapped in human flesh exterior. If anyone deserves a lofty going away party it is Jesus.
Instead we see the opposite. The ultimate picture of abject humility:
"Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." (John 13:3-5)
There is a sense of irony in these words. Jesus was assured that the Father had put all things under his power. He knew who He was! He knew where He came from and where He was going. And it is this lofty, glorious being in whom the fullness of God dwelt since eternity past--it is He who removes his clothes, wraps a towel around his waist, and proceeds to wash his disciples’ feet! A task, mind you, only delegated to only the lowest of gentile slaves.
I love this about Jesus. Jesus is not like a philosopher who urges his listeners to one thing, while he sits pondering away under a solitary tree all the day long. He is not like a politician who makes promise after promise, but only works to pad his wallet with his own self-interest in mind. Jesus is not a man who says one thing while he does another.
Instead, Jesus entire life and ministry fully embraced the message he proclaimed. He did not just say, "Love your enemies." Jesus died for them. He did not just say, "deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me." Jesus denied himself and picked up his own cross in the most literal way possible. He did not just say, "The first shall be last, and the last shall be first." Jesus washed his disciples feet, hours before the most incredible torment imaginable. There was no part of him that was divorced from his message.
Jesus walked the talk. To the point of death.
We need to check ourselves here. If Jesus is our model for Christian life, does our Christian philosophy reveal itself in every aspect of our being? Does what we know to be true illuminate itself in our speech, our conduct, and even our deepest thought patterns? Or do we instead find a gaping disconnect from the message we may know plenty about, but fail to embody (when inconvenient)?
The world is watching, and their frequent accusations of hypocrisy are not without merit. But more importantly, Jesus is watching. It is my prayer that we let his message transform all of who we are, instead of merely relegating it to the conceptual realm.