In today’s Bible reading, John tells us that Jesus washes the Disciples’ feet. All Twelve Disciples. Including Judas.
This is an Inconvenient Truth about Jesus’ ministry. Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him. And yet, He served him. He washed Judas’ feet in the same way as He washed Simon Peter’s feet. And John the Beloved Disciple’s feet. Jesus knew their hearts completely. And yet, He served them all. Including Judas.
If Jesus knew His Disciples’ hearts completely, and yet washed their feet, then I — not knowing peoples’ hearts — don’t have a place to decide to whom I can/should minister.
And neither do you.
God doesn’t give me the choice of whom I minister to. When I said, “Yes” to Jesus’ call to discipleship, my answer was forever, “Yes”. My call to “The Ministry” is no different.
Jesus said that no student is greater than his master. (John 13:16) If Jesus had a Judas, how could I think that I am above having my own Judas(es)?
Jesus tells us to count the cost to be His disciple. And when I look at what Jesus’ death accomplished for me, what right could I possibly claim to exempt me from “having” to minister to anyone?
When it comes down to it, you really can never say, “No, Lord.” If Jesus is Lord, then the answer must be “Yes.” To answer, “No” is to deny Him as Lord.
Jesus is Lord of all or not Lord at all.
In today’s Bible reading, Jesus tells the Jewish leaders their eternal life is in their Scriptures, yet aren’t humble enough to come to Him, the One the Scriptures point to. (John 5:39-40) He points out that in their search for Truth, they ignore the One Who embodies it. They bury their faces in their scrolls looking for God. He stands right in the midst of them, and they completely miss the Truth by “that much”. Their preconceived conceptions of what God is supposed to be like doesn’t fit with what they hear Jesus saying and doing.
If your Bible has a list of crossreferences, glance through the Gospels. Look at how many references there are to the Old Testament Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, especially the Psalms. Over and over again, we see pages of Scripture pouring out of Jesus’ mouth. When you turn to the letters of Paul and the other Apostles, they are constantly quoting or alluding to Old Testament passages. Why? Because these men knew their Bible (which was the Old Testament). They saw Jesus as the fulfillment of every part of their Bible. Every page of their Bible pointed to Jesus. So why didn’t the Jewish leaders see Jesus in their Bible like the Apostles did? They were blind to the spiritual realities. (2 Corinthians 3:14–15)
Like in yesterday’s devotional and elsewhere this year, there is a tremendous theological truth at play called the Sovereignty of God. God is Sovereign. In other words, He is in control. Of everything. Nothing that happens catches Him off guard. And He is never surprised.
And when it comes to seeing God and hearing His voice in Scripture, unless God moves in a miraculous way, no one will find God, regardless of how much they search and where they search. Colleges, universities — and seminaries — are filled with men and women like the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day who know their Bible. They study the original languages, archaeology, and history searching for answers. Yet, they have more questions that they have answers. Now, that can be a good thing. But when you refuse to come to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, you miss it — you miss everything — by that much.
The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. God knew how fallen we are. He knew that our hearts are radically corrupt. (Jeremiah 17:9) He knew that if we could seek Him, we wouldn’t. (Psalm 14:1-3) He knew that if we were to know Him at all, He would have to make a way. And He did in Jesus Christ.
That any of us would believe is a testament to the amazing grace and mercy of a relational, self-disclosing, self-revealing God.
If you know Him, it is only because you responded to His invitation. And that you were invited is a testament to the amazing grace and mercy of a relational, self-disclosing, self-revealing God.
Spend a few minutes thanking Him for making Himself known in His Word. Read it. Cherish it. Share it with others.
And ask God to give them eyes to see, too.
Peter closes his first letter in today’s Bible reading. He reminds the elders how they should lead their churches: with humility.
Humility goes a long way in leading people! Humility recognizes accountability to someone else.
In any organization, everyone is accountable to someone else. Unless you’re working for yourself, someone else has the ability to terminate your employment. And even then, if you’re working for yourself, you’re selling some kind of product or service, so you are accountable to your customers. The CEO/Chairman of the Board is accountable to the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors is accountable to the stockholders. Everyone is accountable to someone else.
It’s true in a church as well. Everyone is accountable to someone else. Everyone needs to clothe himself/herself in humility. What does that look like? It looks like living the Golden Rule with those under your care. It looks like recognizing my place and recognizing that for everything I do and say, I will give an account before God Himself. And that’s a heavy thought!
That’s what Peter was trying to convey to his elders in 1 Peter 5:1-5, with verse 5 echoing Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 5:21.
submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.
Ephesians 5:21 (CSB)
John Donne famously said, “No man is an island.” Each of us is connected to all the others. If Peter were a Southerner, his command, verse 5 would sound something like, “Now all y’all need to look after each other! Don’t be all uppity. God’s watchin’ you.”
Everyone is accountable to someone else. If you’ve been given authority over someone, always remember that you’re accountable to someone else for how you lead those in your care. This applies to church elders. It also applies to parenting and employment situations as well as others.
To whom are you accountable? Live the Golden Rule with those under your care.
Peter continues his discussion of submission in today’s Bible reading with the words, “In the same way” on how wives should submit to their husbands. (1 Peter 3:1) He also concludes his thoughts on submission with the same words when addressing husbands, telling them to live with their wives in an understanding way. (1 Peter 3:7)
Depending on your translation, you may read, “In the same way”, “In like manner”, “Similarly”, or “Likewise”. Peter says, “Wives, just like everyone is to submit to human authorities, submit to your husbands.” I have pointed this out elsewhere, but everywhere a New Testament writer commands a woman to submit, it is always in the context of a relationship with her own husband specifically. Women — in general — are never told to submit to men — in general. And the command is always given to the wives to submit themselves. Nowhere does a Biblical writer tell one person to make sure another person submits.
Missing these key points leads to distortions of what the New Testament writers clearly say.
Submission is a good thing. Relationships (from marriage to military corps to workplaces to churches) don’t work if everyone thinks he/she is better or deserves a higher than another person and fights or murmers until they get what the “position” they want.
Submission follows proper leadership. Everyone must humbly find his/her position under God’s authority. No one gets to do whatever they want.
And the result? Everyone benefits and is honored as they take their place.
In today’s Bible reading, Paul continues with similar topics as we saw in his letter to Timothy. He tells Titus, “Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching. Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that any opponent will be ashamed, because he doesn’t have anything bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:7-8 CSB)
Paul puts a lot of pressure on these young pastors. He holds them to a high standard. But it isn’t a standard that they aren’t able to live up to as they live in dependence on the Holy Spirit. Oh, on their own, they’re in deep weeds! But leaning into the power of the Holy Spirit living through them, it’s a day-by-day experience of seeing God work through them. Paul knows they’ll never “arrive”. They’ll always have to live one day at a time, taking up their cross to follow Jesus. It’s a daily choice that every Believer must make. (Luke 9:23)
For Paul, you can’t say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Paul knows that a life of integrity flows out of a close walk with Jesus.
There are inconsistencies in our lives. If you think you don’t have any, just ask God and listen. Spend time in His Word and He’ll tell you. When He shows you things that don’t look like Jesus, thank Him for the forgiveness that He gave His children through Jesus’ death on the cross.
The entire Christian life is one of daily cross-taking. It’s a life of daily self-denial. It’s a daily reflection, looking for Jesus and asking God to bring out the character of Jesus in your life. And it’s asking God to take away the things that don’t look like Jesus.
It’s true for young pastors like Titus and Timothy. And it’s true for you, too.