I imagine the silence was deafening. The meal was prepared. The table was set. The food was spread before them. Yet everyone knew one thing was not yet done. One thing so simple, yet no one wanted to do it. No volunteer stepped forward and said, “Let me.”
You’ve been there, right? In the middle of a group, surrounded by awkward silence because everyone is avoiding the one thing that needs done and no one wants to do it. To bring it up seems so trivial because all eyes become focused on you with one question, “If it is so important to you, why don’t you do it yourself?”
And so the waiting game begins. Who will break first? Will anyone break at all? Will we finish what we gathered for and leave — with the one obvious task left unaddressed and undone? Don’t look at me, I brought the drinks! . . . Well, I made arrangements for the banquet room! . . . Is that right? Well, I’m actually comfortable the way I am so I don’t care if we leave this whole matter undone!
Is it possible for deafening silence to get even more silent? If so, what happens next had to silence not only the words, but the very inner-most part of this gathering. Let’s listen in:
“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:3-5)
What! This can’t be! Someone needed to do this task, but not Him! I mean, this is Jesus . . . Son of God . . . Messiah! The one person in the room that I acknowledge as above me and better in every way. Why is He doing this? He should have picked someone, I mean, I would have even done this if He had asked and I knew I was doing it for Him! But do it Himself? This can’t be right! Why?
Why? It had to be the question in each person’s mind around the table that night in the upper room. In the midst of the silence and questioning, Jesus points that out as He concludes washing their feet and asks the disciples, “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He evidently knows that they don’t understand, and without an explanation we wouldn’t get it either. So He explains.
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do a I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:13-17)
Jesus wanted His disciples, and us, to understand that living the life of a servant was mandatory for His followers. If Jesus would humble Himself and become obedient, even to death on a cross — and to serving His disciples — how willingly should we imitate His example and serve others? We’re not greater than our master, are we? We’re not above the one who sent us, are we? As workers for God, how much more should we adopt the attitude of Christ who came not to be served, but to serve?
I pray that the next time that you or I are in the midst of a group, or even by our self, avoiding something because no one wants to do it, we would remember the example of Jesus and step forward to serve!