He knelt and set the pan of water at her feet and eased the shoes off. All the way back, she had imagined him gloating and taunting, rubbing her face in her own broken pride. Instead, he knelt before her and washed her dirty, blistered feet.. His hands were so gentle. He took such care. When her feet were clean, he kneaded her aching calves. He cast the dirty water outside and poured more.. He took her hands and washed them as well. He kissed her stained, scratched palms and worked salve in. Then he wrapped them with warm bandages.
We all love love, don't we? We all want to be in love, have someone love us deeply, return that same love to that same someone. We were all born with that desire because we were all born in the image of God. We need each other. We live in this intertwining dance of dependency.
But I don't think love is what we think it is. It's not Hallmark cards and riding off into the sunset and perfect marriages and Hollywood 'you had me at hello.' In the middle of reading 'Redeeming Love' by Francine Rivers, I think it's a little more like that. It's running after each other, it's SACRIFICE, it's a CHOICE, it's fighting, it's heeding the voice of God above your own. It's washing feet when all you want to do is scream. It's, if I'm being honest, crazy.
It's Jesus teaching a totally different approach.
Right after Jesus has told the disciples (for the third time) that the Son of Man would die, James and John approach Him asking for a favor. They say, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory" (Mark 10:37). In other words, when you take power, make sure we're there!!
And Jesus, in all His calm and wisdom, replies, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink from the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"
You do not know what you are asking.
Tim Keller in 'King's Cross' writes this, "What was Jesus' moment of greatest glory? Where does Jesus most show forth the glory of God's justice? And where does he reveal most profoundly the glory of God's love? ON THE CROSS. When Jesus is at the actual moment of his greatest glory, there will be somebody on his right and left, but they will be criminals being crucified. Jesus says to John and James: you have no idea what you are asking."
Glory looks a little bit different. Love looks a little bit different. Glory becomes giving yourself up. The cross and love are synonymous.
If we want to follow who He was and live in His heavenly glory and learn from His teachings and be His disciples, THEN WE MUST DIE. To ourselves, to others, to sin. We can't love the way He did until we sacrifice the way He did.
Do we know what we're asking?
Keller says that "all real, life-changing love is substitutionary sacrifice. You have never loved a broken person, a guilty person, a hurting person except through substitutionary sacrifice."
I think we all except love to be some kind of feeling. Something that makes us feel good. The 'can't eat, can't sleep, reach for the stars, over the fence, world series kind of stuff.' We use love to heal us, to make us whole, to drive out our misery. And while its attributes can fulfill that, I think Jesus is saying it's something else entirely. He's saying it's sacrificial. It's substitutionary. He's saying it heals us and makes us whole, but not without a price. He's saying it's carrying others burdens. He's saying it's real and it's life changing. He's saying we have no idea what we're asking for.
The thing that gets me the most is that this love is daily. It's day to day. I always assumed substitutionary sacrifice was an actual physical death for someone else and while I say I'd die for my family and friends, when will I really ever get the chance to do that? But Jesus is saying this isn't a one time thing; it's EVERY DAY. It's waking up and knowing you're living for someone else. It's loving the people who hurt around us; that's a sacrifice. It is an over and over, constant, every day, way of life thing.
For me, this feels like a call to expect love to be radical. This feels like a call to humility, to vulnerability, to let my walls down, to put on the armor of God and set people free to feel worth sacrificing for. For me, it's loving people regardless of how they respond to me. Forgiveness, reconciliation, doing the right thing aren't always easy. It requires some pain, some dying, some loss of sanity, some loss of self for a far greater reward. It's not what I can get, but what I can give. Believing that He makes me into a better version of myself every time I choose Him. For me, it's not doing things that make a good story or erasing the things that don't. It's believing that my story is His and His story is mine.
My friend Todd writes, "It was love that moved God to send Jesus to save and free us from sin through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead."
It's a crazy kind of love. It's a totally different approach.
I want to ask for that.