Service Requires Identity

I’ve been living in the Gospel of John for the last few weeks. I leave it playing on my phone during the day, I read it when I sit down with a spare minute, I’m even hearing my son start to walk around quoting pieces of it on occasion. I’ve been trying (because heavenly things can only be grasped in the Spirit) to immerse myself in His Truth. I want to better understand the Deity of Messiah – His love, His sacrifice, His humility, His adoption – I want to truly be planted in Him. There are many things that pierce my consciousness every time I hear them, but one in particular has been pulling at me lately.

Most Christians are familiar with the account of Yeshua washing the disciples feet before instituting the last supper. I never noticed that this account is only given in the Gospel of John. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all address the disciples’ discussion of who would be greatest in the Kingdom. However, the act of Jesus washing their feet is only in John. It’s not this account, per say, that I get stuck on. It’s the sentence immediately preceding the short account.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. – John 13:3-4 ESV

Why does John say this before going on to tell what happened next? There are many accounts in the Gospels of Jesus doing things that were just not done. Talking to the “unclean,” and even touching them – not done. What happened? They were healed and made clean. Talking to women – not done. What happened? They were healed, saved from stoning, lifted from shame, and given the ability to believe. Getting up from a table, at which you are the honored Rabbi and Teacher, to take off your outer clothing, tie a towel around your waist and wash dirt off of your students’ feet – definitely not done. So why does John make a point of saying what Jesus knew before He did this?

Yeshua knew who He was. Yeshua’s identity was not based in what He did for people, what He said to people, or who people thought He was. He knew Who He was. John wrote this (by the leading to of the Holy Spirit) for our benefit. We need to understand as a people consumed with image, what people think, what people don’t think – we need to understand that our identity comes from one place: God.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:12-13 ESV

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. – Romans 8:15-17

If I am a child of God, then I can do what God’s only begotten Son, Moshiach, whom I am to imitate, did. He was not afraid to lower or debase Himself in the midst of His disciples because it meant nothing to Him what they thought of Him. He knew Who He was.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand. Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, If I do not wash you, you have no share with me. – John 13:6-8

Just a side note – I heart Peter. He makes me feel better about myself because, for as many people say they are Peter, I so am. Constantly jumping the gun with my mouth, making bold proclamations about what is right, what I think, what we should do – that is so me. I’m praying for God to move from pre-Holy Spirit Peter to post-Holy Spirit Peter. Another blog for another day.

If Peter could not accept Jesus as a servant who washed his feet, how would he ever accept Yeshua, the Suffering Servant Moshiach, Who would allow Himself to be cursed on a cross, hung on a tree, to bear the sins of the world? Peter and the disciples, people who were not used to being lifted up before others, thought that by standing with Jesus, expecting a reigning King who would obliterate the Romans at any moment, argued about who would be the greatest. Why? Because most of them were fisherman! They were not people of respect, not esteemed by their people, they did hard work and looked forward to being in the court of the King.

Paul, on the other hand, came from the feet of the Rabbi Gamaliel. He was all set up to be one of the most respected, paid-attention-to, everybody-listens-to-me leaders in the Jewish world. To be blinded, thrown off his horse and addressed by God, only to find out that he is persecuting the One who he professes to follow so zealously – his call was the embodiment of humiliation. He knew where he came from, he knew who he was and he knew who he served. His take on identity and service was very different than that of the quibbling disciples.

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. – Philippians 3: 4-11

Yeshua said, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35 ESV).  He said also, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45).

This is increasingly becoming my heart’s cry. Exactly what Paul, Shaul, said is how I feel. I want to know Yeshua HaMoshiach, Jesus Christ. I just want to know Him. And the more I know Him, the more I realize that my position in His Kingdom becomes increasingly irrelevant when I realize who I already am in Him.

I am a daughter of God. I am a servant of the One true God.

Who are you?

Jesus wept.

The day comes to all families when death wins over this fragile flesh. While those we love go on to glory and are immediately embraced by Yeshua upon stepping over the threshold of this life, we are still here on this earth without them. They are met with love, joy, and freedom, and we are happy beyond measure for them. But our hearts ache for their tangible presence in this life, where we must live without them until our own bodies give way to the earth.

I’ve been struggling with the mundane tasks of life the last couple of days. I made food, I changed diapers, I bought groceries, and all the while, I wondered where my family was. The dear brother and sister that God gave my husband and I were hurting today. They probably spent most of the day hovering near a hospital bed, talking to doctors, and making heart-wrenching decisions. I feel frustrated that things in life “go on” when grief strikes us and lays us bare. It doesn’t seem right that in one moment, our entire lives can be changed, people can be torn away from us, and the rest of the world keeps spinning as if nothing had happened.

Thus far I have only lost one grandparent. My father’s mother, my Bubbe, died about four years ago on Chanukkah, the day after Christmas that year. I was not allowed to go to her memorial because my Zayde is a Rabbi and having a believer in Yeshua at her funeral would have dishonored her memory and shamed my family before the entire Jewish community. Of course, it’s not widely known that I believe Yeshua is our Jewish Messiah, but my father and my aunt’s family knew I would not be ashamed to share it. My sisters went. I heard accounts of the funeral and the shiva at my Zayde’s apartment in New York. By all accounts, it was horrific. Death always is. I had been at home, going about “what needed to be done,” feeling the way I do now, wondering how things continue after someone we love does not. How insidiously evil death is to make a person feel so small and insignificant in the moment when they need the most strength.

And yet, even while life goes on, the world keeps spinning, and the minutiae of the day needs attending to, there is a truth so soul-shaking, so heart-stirring, so earth-moving, that we can place our entire lives in the hands of God. A truth so revealing of His great love for us and His eternal empathy, that we cannot help but run to His feet in our grief. A truth so infinitely vast that it can consume all of our doubts, fears and sorrows.

Jesus wept.

“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.  And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.” – John 11:32-35 ESV

Jesus knew that He was about to walk to cave of Lazarus’s tomb and raise him from the dead. Jesus knew that in mere minutes, He would again hear his friend’s voice and see his face. Jesus knew that He had come to bring the dead to life and there was no doubt in His mind that this would take place. And Jesus still wept.

Even the unbelieving Jews that had come to mourn with Martha at the tomb marveled at how Yeshua must have loved Lazarus. His display was not a perfunctory display of tears and He did not hide His grief before those gathered around the mourners. He felt the pain of Mary and Martha in losing their brother and the sting of death on the earth. It was unfathomably bitter and Jesus, “deeply moved,” wept with Mary and Martha for the loss they had just suffered.

Death on this earth does not negate the promise of eternal life. We who believe that Jesus’ death on the cross was a sacrifice thus giving us free access to God and life everlasting in heaven can never lose sight of the amazing eternal plan God has for us. However, Jesus Himself, when confronted with severity of death, wept.

He could have told Mary and Martha, “Stop crying, don’t you know I can raise him back to life?” But, Jesus didn’t say that, He wept. He could have rebuked them saying, “Do you not believe that he is now in paradise and will live forever?” He did not say that either, instead Jesus wept.

Sometimes, we want to comfort people by trying to pull them out of their grief. People say a myriad of things to mourners that do not need to be said because they want to make the person “feel better.” The presence of grief commands self-examination. For Jesus, this process led Him to weep. He knew the reality that He had come to take the keys of death and the grave, but He still allowed Himself to feel the sting of mortality on the earth.

The Word of God says that it is better to be in a house of mourning than in a house of feasting and that the heart of the wise is there (Ecclesiastes 7:2, 4). Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Yeshua said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” We have the unspeakable, profound, privilege of being comforted by the Holy Spirit and He is faithful to comfort us when we grieve. 

Wherever you find yourself today, remember the sober truth that, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

If that’s a confession you have not yet made, today is your chance. There will be a day when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore,” but that’s a promise made only to those who believe in Yeshua. That promise is not made to the “good people,” or the “nice people,” or the “did enough good deeds” people. That is a promise reserved solely for those who trusted God enough to put their faith in His Son’s ability to save them.

The woman for whom we mourn today was taken from us suddenly, but she is with the Lord, Jesus, even as we weep. You do not get to choose the day of your death. The only way to make certain of where you will be when that day comes is to surrender yourself to the reality that you do not have control over your life or the ability to save yourself and to put your trust solidly in the only One Who does.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” – Romans 5:6-11