View all Novenas | November 16, 2020
Nine Days to Christ the King: Day 5
Meditation Day 5: Christ, Our Servant King
Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.” Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.” For he knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.” So when he had washed their feet (and) put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (John 13: 1-15).
Perhaps nowhere is the true nature of Jesus’s servant kingship better exemplified than in the washing of his disciples’ feet. If we were to be permitted a peek into the upper room on the night of the last supper, the scene before us would take our breath away. Jesus, the master, the teacher, the King of Kings, literally set himself to a task deemed fit only for a slave. That night, Jesus did not just go through the motions of washing his disciples’ feet. What he did was not a mere symbolic gesture. He lovingly, humbly, set about the work of washing each one of his apostles’ feet, grime-filled, blistered, and foul-smelling as they were.
Why, of all the things that God would choose to do when on earth, would he choose this? Why, if a king, did he lower himself so far as to be a slave?
The answer is threefold. First, because of who he is. Second, because of who we are. Third, because of who we are called to be.
Who He Is
Jesus as our King desires nothing other than to serve us. God, sovereign creator of the entire universe, created all that exists precisely in order to serve, in order to love us. He has infinite power, but this power is not self-serving. His reign is a reign of self-oblation out of love.
We may need to take a moment to allow this to sink in. God is not out to “lay down the law” in my life. He is not seeking to increase his domination in the world by coercing me into obedience. He does not need my acclaim and servitude. He longs only that I allow him to serve me. He longs for me to let him love me. Being a Christian implies accepting to be loved by God in this way. It implies laying aside my false images of God and allowing the true God, the servant God, to enter and heal my heart.
Who We Are
The truth is that we need God to serve us. Without his love, we are nothing. As weak, limited creatures, we are unable to enter into communion with him on the basis of our own strength. In other words, we need Jesus to wash our feet.
Such was the lesson that Peter learned that night when he refused to allow his Lord to humble himself before him. Jesus’s words were clear: “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” If we are not capable of recognizing our need for God, our need of being undeservedly served by God, we will never be able to receive the love that is our inheritance from him.
If I, like Peter, desire to take part in Jesus’s kingdom, I must first learn to allow my Lord and God to bend down and wash my feet. To follow Christ is first to allow myself to be served by him. It is to expose my smelly, messy, imperfect life to his loving gaze and to allow him to gently, lovingly, clean and heal me. It is only when I have experienced what it truly means to be loved and served by my almighty God that I begin to learn what it means to be a Christian.
Who We Are Called To Be
“You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.” Jesus had made very clear that the reason he had come to earth was to serve. Yet, his apostles had far from assimilated this fundamental truth. For them, being master and teacher still had other connotations. If they were to be the future servant leaders upon which Our Lord would build his Church, they needed to learn this important lesson. But not as a lesson in morality, not as another item in the “dos and don’ts” of Christianity: This was a lesson to be learned from the heart, through the life-changing experience of being deeply, personally, outrageously loved by Jesus himself.
Jesus bent to wash his disciples’ feet so that they, in experiencing what it means to be selflessly served by their God, might learn to love as he does. When we allow Jesus to serve and love us as we are, in the depths of our misery, our hearts become transformed, and we become capable of offering this same love to others. We too become servants of our brothers and sisters.
As we continue to journey toward the feast of Christ the King, let us give Jesus free reign to bend down and wash our feet, and ask him to teach us to serve as he did.
In order to do so, we might ask ourselves:
- Am I willing to allow myself to be loved by my servant God, as I am, without masks or makeovers?
- Is there an area of my life, of my heart, that I still have not fully opened to allow Jesus to touch and clean? Am I truly, unreservedly, open to allowing Jesus to wash my feet?
- How does my heart respond to the woundedness and imperfection of those around me when they become uncomfortably evident to me? Is this another area that I can open to Jesus’s healing touch, knowing that I need his grace in order to love as he does?
Christ, my servant King, I need you to wash my feet. I need you to heal my heart so that I might love like you. Help me to open my heart to allow you to love me, without reservation, just as I am, and teach me to be a servant to all, as you are.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart more like yours.
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