Day 20 – When Washing Feet, Scrub and Soap

Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean.” John 13:10

When I was single, sometimes I skipped showers (this is a difficult confession…), and plopped into bed. After marriage, I probably skipped shower three times at most. My wife would not have me next to her unless I am all washed up. But not one day did I not wash my feet. That is where Suyun draws the line.

Our feet gets lot of use. Perhaps more than any other muscles, except for the heart. And it is impossible to keep it clean through out the day. Whether it be open-toed sandals or woolen socks and leather boots, our feet gets dusty and sweaty.

So our feet needs daily washing. We wash our hands everyday. More than once. It is unusual, not to mention unhygienic, not to wash our hands everyday. Doesn’t our feet need that same vigilance? Most of us do wash our feet daily (I hope), but we don’t see it in that same importance as our hands.

I think we treat our spiritual life, actually, like our feet. Every day, our spiritual aspirations meet the dirty roads of life, and it gets grimy. There is no way to avoid it. We will never live up to our own expectations for the day, let alone God’s expectation. So we should have a time at the end of the day, to repent. We should not just dab our feet with water but soap it vigorously as our hands. That is, when we repent, perhaps a generic “I am a sinner” doesn’t clean anything. Maybe we have to take stock of our day, and verbally repent of them. And that should not be a dour task. It should refresh us.

There were a few times when I actually said to Suyun, “These are my feet and I am an adult!” But I did go wash it anyway, because I don’t like sleeping alone. And when the warm water bathed my feet, it felt heavenly. It feels good to repent!

Day 18 – Leaving The Table

What is most tragic is how greed blinded Judas to what he had. He desired Mary’s wealth when Mary would have given up her wealth to have Jesus say to her “follow me.” As much as Jesus loved Mary, Jesus did not choose her (or Lazarus) as one of his twelve.

Judas was one of the twelve, the inner circle. He had a special and intimate relationship with Jesus. He had Jesus’ heart and ears. He sat with him at the last supper. But as soon as it was night, Judas abandons his special seat because he did not know how special it was.

Greed turns our eyes to all that we don’t have, so we don’t see what has been given to us, though what has been given to us incomparable. And this blinding affect of greed is so gradual, you hardly notice it until you find yourself in the dark, much the way the night sets in. You are aware the light is fading but you never know when sun has set. You are engaged in your activity and suddenly it is pitch black.

Judas stands up and there is no lingering sunlight, and now it is too late for him. He has left the table for good, although Jesus offered him bread.

Day 17 – Dear Children

Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going. So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” – John 13:33-35

The last supper with his disciples, and Jesus’ tone is different:, tender,  nurturing, and maternal (I needed a sister in our Life Group leader’s study to point this out).  I have always read it more like a father giving his last instructions. As a father’s last instructions, his last words is disappointing. They are too simple and saccharine as last instructions. So the great religious father-figure simply wants his disciples to live in a commune where everyone gets along?

But from a maternal angle, these would be the only words.

For sure, Jesus believes that the life of love will be the most convincing witness to the world, a point he will repeat. But I want to linger on the main tone of this message, Jesus wants his followers to love each other well, as much as a mother would believe, more vehemently than a father would, that success is not achievement but belonging, that if the siblings can call each other up and be there through all the undulations of life, her children would have life to the fullest. Jesus is saying more than this, for sure, but he is saying at least this. Jesus’ loves the disciples so much that he want them to first love each other, much like any mother.

Day 14 – Spiritual Life is Physical

and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. – John 12:3

So it went the first time I saw a Muslim pray — quick, necessary, physical, muttered, striking. Next time I was praying in church — on my knees, immobile, silent before Christ on the Cross — the image of this callisthenic communion with God in the middle of bags of flour kept coming to my mind. – Life of Pi

When I was young, I prayed on my knees because Sunday School teachers said your posture shows respect. When I became a teen, I was told that what matters is the heart so I can pray however I want, even lying down. To believe that only prayers on knees are heard is legalism, the death of faith.

Now a days in the mornings, I pray with my palms turned upwards. When I come to church, I lift my hands before the cross. In the evening I have to get on my knees. I am sure God hears my prayers no matter my posture, but “I” cannot pray lying down on a bed. I find it impossible to direct my heart when my body is going limp ready to sleep.

Our society is highly sexual but disembodied. We love our bodies (idealized, photoshoped and glossed) but we do not inhabit them. We are not aware of our bodies even as we care how others view my body. Sexual but disembodied.

Evangelical Christianity drinks the same water.

So we see Mary drying Jesus feet with her hair as sensuous, when it is the purest devotion in the book of John. “Anything physical is sexual and so it cannot be spiritual,” I can almost hear a church deacon say. We assume that physical disciplines takes us away from our spirit and borders on legalism. Such are the fibs that keep us from anything physical in our spiritual life.So we read silently, pray in our hearts, and on Sunday morning we throw one arm around our spouse and slouch with a coffee on the other hand as if we are watching a game on our sofa. So this is our grand freedom from legalism, to worship in any posture we want.

A catholic women told me that she cannot get used to our contemporary worship because it does not have enough physical movements, too cerebral, too mental.

We cannot love our God with all of our heart, until we love God with all of our body.

Day 13 – Slipping into Sin

But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.”Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. John 12:4-6

Before Judas commits the great sin that earns him the title, “Traitor” and ends him in the lowest part of Dante’s hell, before the devil enters him and pull his strings (as John will narrate), there is Judas putting some pennies into his pockets. Such is the slope of sin. We slip into them.
This does not let us off the hook. But our sense of self would be shattered if we jump into sin. So we move to sin gradually. We acclimate ourselves, we create reason for what we do so sin and the sense of self can coincide, so we can live with the sin and still feel we are right. Everyone who sins believe they have good reason for it.
When Judas went to the religious leaders, he really did not see himself as a bad man. He had good reasons for it. Jesus was not, after all, a revolutionary who would liberate the poor. Jesus, it turns out, isn’t any different than the religious leaders themselves, hobnobbing with the rich (Lazarus). And why not demand 30 pieces of silver. He will send some of that to Compassion International or some other charities. And demanding 30 silvery pieces did not feel greedy at all, since his hand was already oily with dimes and nickels. Long before Satan enters us, we are committing little white lies.

Day 12 – Can’t Get It Until The End

His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him. – John 12:16

John is referring to the triumphal entry, Jesus entering Jerusalem with the news of his resuscitation of Lazarus going before him. They did not see him riding a donkey and the palm branches being laid down by the people as the picture of a prophecy of long ago. They did not get it until the end, until Christ ascended and the story of Christ on earth ended.

Of course they could not get it, not while they were in it. When you are in it, you don’t care too much about the meaning of it all because you are still trying to create the end yourself. They were all imagining how this entry is going to end for them, a throne and some section of Jerusalem redistricted to them. They did not get it until Christ ascended and they finally accepted the purpose of Christ. When they accepted the mission of Christ, then everything that happened made sense. The Scriptures came alive!

This is true of others. We don’t get the meaning of a person’s life until the end (and I don’t mean the casket only). So it is foolish to be jealous or judgmental. No one has it all and no one is beyond usefulness. We don’t understand the meaning of a person’s life so it is best to not judge at all and simply love them.

Likewise, we don’t get our life either, not until we see Christ. So we don’t need to too harsh or too proud. What is bad now might not be bad at all, and what seems good now can be the fruit that banishes us. We simply trust Christ and follow, through the Palm leaves as well as up Golgotha. At the end, it will all make sense and we will have fulfilled God’s purpose, which is another way to say the fulfillment of a prophecy. God has a prophecy over every one of us.

Day 8 – Faithful Thomas

Thomas, nicknamed the Twin said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.”

It is too bad for Thomas that he got stuck with a title created to divide the bible into useful, manageable sections. Ever since the section where Thomas says he won’t believe it (resurrection) until he see it himself , Thomas was stuck with “Doubting Thomas.” Readers assume it was what the rest of the disciples called him. It is like a bully’s name-calling that follows the victim through his elementary school. The victim is forever seen in that light.

But today we see the faithfulness of Thomas. Where many were weary of going back to Jerusalem, Thomas sets his heart to follow, even to death. He is the one to sway the emotion, and so the decision, of the disciples. I imagine some of them nodding with Thomas and their courage growing as they see one of their own urging them to follow to death, a change of mind partially caused by not wanting to be outdone.

Now, it’s true that everyone abandons Jesus, even Thomas. When the moment comes, everyone’s courage fails. But isn’t this true of most of us? In our following of Christ, do we often not follow through with our own promises? Yet, we should not give up.

This is not my first Lent, but I do it as if it is my first. And it is a promise much like Thomas, that I will follow Christ to death, death of my sinful habits. And even if I went back on my words after Lent last year, I am going to do it again. And that is faithfulness too, not the faithfulness that is proven by my promise keeping, but a faithfulness that clings onto Christ’s faithfulness.

Christ appeared to Thomas when his faith left him, and showed his hands with the nail-holes. So Christ accepts my Lent commitments, his faithfulness dragging me along until I become more faithful.

At the end, human faithfulness is possible only because of Christ’s faithfulness.

Day 6 – Friend of Jesus

So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” – John 11:3 NLT

So how did it feel to be a friend of Jesus? Does it mean you kicked back with Jesus whenever Jesus wanted to leave behind the whole messiah-role and wanted some time for himself? Did Jesus crack more jokes with you? Or did he just nap at your sectional-couch because he was so tired of teaching and what he needed was a quiet companion, where there was no need for talk because both of you understood each other, so much so that even silence was a comforting presence?

But Jesus is quite harsh to let his friend die like that. Even if Jesus was confident of the end result, that he would restore his friend from death and the miracle would glorify the Father, the fact is the friend died expecting the coming and healing of his friend Jesus. Instead, Lazarus closed his eyes knowing Jesus never showed up. Lazarus did not get the memo that this was all part of Jesus’ plan, that in four days he would be jolted from death into life. The friend faced death like every human being, alone.

Or perhaps he did not feel alone. Perhaps he was so confident of the friendship that he did not feel disappointment? He knew that the silence from Jesus was not apathy but that silence between friends, when friends know each other so well, that talk gets in the way, and even absence is a form of presence. Perhaps that is why Jesus let his friend go through the gates of death.

Jesus could have done this miracle with almost anyone. But he performs this miracle with his friend. And that intimacy was not really for the crowd, because raising anyone from the dead would have had the same shock factor. Perhaps it was because Jesus knew that when Lazarus walked out of that tomb, Lazarus would have understood completely and it would be like the old times, as if the death and the resuscitation never happened. That once Lazarus got his strength back, he would say, “so what’s new?”

Jesus, I am your friend. I trust you that no matter what happens, that I will always be your friend, the one you love.