Friday, July 9, 2010

Tears and an Alabaster Jar -A devo from the Gospels Luke and John

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There’s a group from our dietetic department my school that goes to Honduras bi-yearly with the army to conduct research on food-insecure populations. I have not had the privilege of going yet, but from what I hear, it is a pretty eye-opening experience. The research involves measuring the degree of wasting of upper arm circumference or stunting do to nutritional deficiencies. Following the research, our group provides fortified rice, a vitamin and sometimes, an iron shot for those who are considered deficient. The group often has a shoe drive before leaving the states called “Happy Feet” so that they can provide the children they perform the various wasting tests on with a brand new pair of shoes. So many diseases can be prevented with good hygiene of feet and so the group often washes their feet and puts their shoes on their feet. Think of that concept for a second and you may recall two very significant moments in Jesus Christ’s life:

Passage from: Luke 7:36-50

36Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. 37When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner."
40Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."
"Tell me, teacher," he said.
41"Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[d] and the other fifty. 42Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"
43Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled."
"You have judged correctly," Jesus said.
44Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."
48Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."
49The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"
50Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." ESV

This passage not only gives insight into salvation but gives so much insight into the culture in which Jesus was in at the time. People in that area and during this time period wore sandals. Naturally, the feet of these people were dirty and it was only hospitable for a servant of the house to wash the feet of guests before reclining at the table to eat. When people ate at the table, they somewhat ‘sat on their hip’ with their feet angled slightly behind them. This woman comes in, aware of who Jesus is and just begins to weep behind Christ and begins to wash his feet with her tears. The woman remains unidentified in the Bible and to be honest, I don’t think God could have had this story written any different through Luke than He did (for obvious reasons). Because she remains nameless, we can put ourselves in her place so much easier: we are like that sinful woman and should follow her example in the way that she washed, kissed and poured perfume on the feet of Jesus. This example was just a foreshadowing of what was to come for Christ in a passage recounted in John:

Passage from John 13: 1-17

1Now(A) before(B) the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that(C) his hour had come(D) to depart out of this world to the Father,(E) having loved(F) his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2During supper, when(G) the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3Jesus, knowing(H) that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that(I) he had come from God and(J) was going back to God, 4rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel,(K) tied it around his waist. 5Then he(L) poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, do you wash my feet?" 7(M) Jesus answered him, "What I am doing(N) you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand." 8(O) Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, (P) "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me." 9Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" 10Jesus said to him, "The one who has bathed does not need to wash,(Q) except for his feet,[a] but is completely clean. And(R) you[b] are clean,(S) but not every one of you." 11(T) For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, "Not all of you are clean."

12When he had washed their feet and(U) put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, (V) "Do you understand what I have done to you? 13(W) You call me(X) Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet,(Y) you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example,(Z) that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16Truly, truly, I say to you,(AA) a servant[c] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17If you know these things,(AB) blessed are you if you do them. ESV

Is this not one of the most beautiful images presented in the Bible? Imagine this! Jesus Christ: son of God, the Creator of the Heaven and the Earth, the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Savior, the Lamb, the Alpha and Omega; kneeling down after putting on a towel to wash the feet of common men—one pair of feet who would betray him, another who would deny him three times and all would abandon him almost hours later. I love verse 13 stating “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” It goes on to state that we as a servant is no greater than his master nor a messenger than the one who sent him. Thinking about the significance of this command---it is similar to a verse in Luke 6 stating “Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Now, does this mean we have the power to forgive sins? No, the true authority to forgive sins is within Christ himself---but he commands us and shows by example in this passage that if Christ can forgive those who crucify him on a cross and betray him, that we can most certainly forgive one another.

You may say, “Ok, I want to obey this command and am willing, but we don’t wash feet like this in America—how does this relate to today?” Well, it remains a beautiful image to follow this in the literal sense; I know of a couple that the husband washed the feet of his wife on their first night together of their wedding day. He desired to show her that he would humbly lead her like Christ. But we can simply ‘wash one another’s feet’ in the way that we approach any and every situation in life. We must recognize that Christ is the reason we are doing it---not to make us appear as though we are more spiritual or ‘holier than though.’ So I would suggest just asking God, “What does this look like in my life God? Whose feet do you want me to wash? Then we need to humble ourselves; get up from the table we are at and take the place of a servant. Next, we need to serve; to wash, to both forgive and to ask for forgiveness of those around us. Lastly, repeat steps one, two and three….seven times seventy times!