Everyone is celebrating Passover and you are invited.
As you enter the city you will find a furnished upper room. In that room, you will be joined by twelve disciples and a man named Jesus. Maybe you’ve heard of Him? He’s the man who has been teaching in the temple and performing miracles. He has multiplied food, dined and talked to people typically shunned, walked on water, healed diseases, and even raised people from the dead.
When you reach the upper room, Jesus will open the door for you, welcoming you inside. You immediately sense something special about Him. He is unlike anyone you have ever met. He slides the chair out for you and invites you to sit beside Him. He wants to spend time with you and be close to you. You’ve heard about how He treats everyone with respect and kindness and now you get the opportunity to experience it for yourself. His reputation as a gentleman proves to be true.
You look around at the other men present in the room. They seem ordinary and unlikely to be in the presence of Jesus, just like you. All of a sudden you have an awareness of your unworthiness. Nervously fidgeting in your chair, you look down and see the dirt on your feet, revealing your travels. You search the room for someone to make you feel better about yourself. Surely there is a servant who can wash your feet to erase the evidence of where you’ve been.
To your surprise, Jesus stands, takes off His outer clothing and wraps a towel around His waist. He pours water into a basin and begins to wash each man’s feet and dry them with the towel. One of the disciples refuses at first, but Jesus insists.
And then He comes to you. He kneels down before you. His hands tenderly and purposefully reach out to remove your sandals and He gently washes away your filth. The feeling of unworthiness rises in you again. You are overcome with awe of this man and you don’t want Him to stop at your feet. You want Him to wash your hands and head as well. Being covered in His love feels unlike anything you’ve ever experienced and you don’t want Him to leave. You want to be in His presence forever.
Jesus rises from His lowly act and He recommends you follow His example by washing each other’s feet. He promises you will be blessed if you do. In this moment you recall a conversation weeks before when religious leaders questioned Jesus about the greatest commandment. He told them the greatest commandment is to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Could this example of humble service Jesus modeled for you be the way you fulfill this command?
Your thoughts are redirected as Jesus takes His seat at the table again. On the table you see a sacrificed lamb, unleavened bread, and wine. Jesus tells you this will be His last supper and shares about His future suffering. Because Jesus tends to talk in so many parables it is difficult to understand what He means. Knowing you need further explanation, Jesus shows you as He takes the bread, gives thanks and breaks it. He offers you a piece and calls it His body. In the same way, He takes the cup and calls it His blood, which He pours out for you. You follow His lead. Your stomach is full and now so is your heart. Never before have you experienced such communion with someone.
As you ponder what it means to be broken and poured out, Jesus tells the group someone will betray Him. Everyone looks around in disbelief wondering who it could be. It seems unfathomable considering Jesus just washed everyone’s feet only moments before — everyone including the betrayer. How could Jesus extend such love, grace, and forgiveness to someone so undeserving? And then a wave of conviction comes over you. You realize how undeserving you are. He washed your feet too.
The conversation diverts again to a discussion of who among you will be the greatest. Jesus says the greatest is the one who serves. This is in complete contradiction of what you’ve been taught and what your flesh is inclined to do. This Jesus you are developing a relationship with continues to surprise you. He is different. He is special. All of your life you have had a hunger and thirst and after meeting Him you are finally satisfied. All of your empty spaces are full.
As dinner comes to a close, you sing a hymn and follow Jesus to the Mount of Olives. There Jesus predicts a disciple’s denial. A betrayal and denial? How could anyone do this to Jesus?
You walk further to the Garden of Gethsemane and you watch Jesus pray. It is obvious He is deeply distressed and troubled. He pleads with God to take the cup from Him, but surrenders His will for God’s.
Jesus requests you keep watch, but as hard as you try you succumb to your flesh and fall asleep. This happens three times and then you watch in disbelief as the hour Jesus told you would come happens before your very eyes. One of the men from the table kisses Him in betrayal. Jesus is arrested and all the disciples flee. They desert Him and so do you.
Now it is not only Jesus who agonizes. You do too. You realize everything Jesus said is true. The denial, the betrayal, the prophecy is all unfolding exactly how He said it would. Knowing what was ahead, He continued anyway.
You remember your time with Jesus, specifically the intimate time with Him at the table. You reflect on the wisdom in the words He shared and the example He displayed. You have no doubt now He is who He says He is because you witnessed it for yourself. Being in His presence was enough for you to believe.
You grieve your humanness and rejection of Him. You recommit the rest of your life to His ways. You have a renewed sense of passion to obey His commands and to tell others about your experience so they too can experience time with Jesus at His table. You want them to know they too are welcome. But they need to know that while there is love, grace, and forgiveness at the table, there is also humility, servanthood, and suffering.
Following Him and being His disciple wasn’t as easy as you thought it would be. You will be weak in your flesh, tempted to betray and deny Him.
But then, it was never about what you had to offer Him, was it? It was about accepting what He already did.