The Great Servant

When I read again any book, I try to imagine reading it for the first time. I try to wonder what will happen next, casting aside anything I already know about the story’s end. I find myself rooting for a different outcome than the one I know is coming. I hope for Joseph and Hyrum to escape and live on. I hope for the Lord to be accepted and acknowledged by the leaders of the Jews.

Alas, the story always ends in the same way as before. And sometimes I find myself mourning again at the poignant scenes of death and loss. In the life of Christ this grief is only temporary as you read further to see He conquers death.

I’m now re-reading the Gospel of John. As that last Passover approached, Christ knew His end was near. He alone knew death was coming, followed by triumph. But all the suggestions and outright declarations did not help the disciples grasp what Christ was about to do.

Because I know the story, I can understand the Lord’s words. I know what is coming. But I try to put myself into those disciples’ shoes and see the account through John’s eyes.

I hike almost every day with my wife. She will often wear sandals, and I most often wear shoes. In the dry summer season traffic turns the trails to dust. After only 4 miles we stomp our feet to remove some of that dust. That sheds a small cloud of dust.

To remove the rest requires us to use the hose to wash it away. If the feet are not washed, anything you step on or brush up against will bear the dusty evidence of the hike.

During the Lord’s life people’s feet held not just dust from walking, but any visit to the courtyard of sacrifice in the temple added the blood of slain animals to the contamination of the feet. Animal blood ceremonially represented the people’s sins. This blood would stick to the feet until washed away.

At that last Passover, Christ knelt to wash the feet of His disciples. Peter objected most strongly, but the others were likewise hesitant to see the Lord kneel as if their servant. He told them that if He did not clean their feet they would have no part with Him. He said they would not understand what He was doing until later, and so they should indulge Him and allow Him to proceed.

He washed away the dust of this world. He removed the sins the disciples bore. He renewed the forgiveness once experienced through washing at baptism with another ceremony. This washing would remove any contamination these disciples had acquired between the time of their baptism and that Passover evening.

He necessarily touched the dust and blood that was on His disciples feet in order to remove it from them. When Christ touched lepers it made Him ceremonially unclean. But by healing the leper, the stigma of that uncleanliness was removed and they were made clean. Christ’s touch was able to cleanse and heal, not just the leper, but on this occasion also His disciples.

Christ would die soon after washing His disciples’ feet on that evening. The dust, blood and sins of the disciples were washed away, and Christ then poured out His own sacrificial blood and life to likewise cleanse and heal all mankind.

Enoch saw the evil and violence mankind inflicted upon one another, and the destruction of mankind at the time of Noah. Enoch “had bitterness of soul, and wept over his brethren, and said unto the Heavens, I will refuse to be comforted.” NC Gen. 4:19

But when Enoch saw the suffering of Christ, he rejoiced: “Enoch saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh, and his soul rejoiced, saying, The Righteous is lifted up and the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world. And through faith I am in the bosom of the Father, and behold, Zion is with me.” NC Gen. 4:20

Despite all my desire to see the Lord spared from suffering, He performed an act of love and kindness for us all. My emotions try to pull Him away from those awful moments of torment, sacrifice, suffering and death. But, like Enoch, I see that it must be so. And I rejoice in The Great Servant’s acts of servitude. He served His Father. But while in the service of His Father, He was only in the service of His fellowman. By His stripes we are healed. And His suffering will justify many.