A warm Palestine breeze fluttered through the open windows of the upper room. The torches glowing from the plastered walls danced and played in cadence at the onset of dusk-light. Outside, in the lonely avenues, all was quiet as the swelled Jerusalem populace observed this most sacred of Jewish holy days within their homes and tents.
He must have had something on His mind as He sat there watching His disciples engage over the Passover meal. From the looks of things, in the dim wash of early evening, the Savior's face was etched with unclarified emotion. Deep springs of passion rose to meet His eyes and His accepting countenance fairly depicted a fatherly tenderness.
That's not to say there weren't conflicting themes within. Yeshua could see the long night ahead. There was Peter–brave Peter–chuckling at some inside joke, stealing a wondering glance at the Rabbi, then going back to his innocent revelry with deep-chested gusto. This hard-edged, soft-hearted fisherman, who had made no bones about his allegiance to Messiah, would lie, curse and deny in just a few hours.
There was innocent John Mark, in whose home they now reposed, quietly listening to several conversations at once. He was the youngest and most impressionable. And, not long from hence, this future gospeler would run scared into the night, leaving his outer cloak in the hands of a Roman guard. A casualty of war. A scattered sheep.
Jesus' eyes took it all in. Thomas' pensiveness and Philip's wariness. Simon and Matthew engaging in their nightly verbal fisticuffs and John, beloved John, unsuccessfully imploring them to take the high road of brotherly love. The Savior smiled, seeing His ragtag band, knowing each of their weaknesses and marveling that these were the men who would joyfully choose the narrow road and carry their crosses without apology. But first they would fall away before returning for good. He softly chuckled to Himself, "Baby steps. A lot of baby steps…"
Rousted from His own revelry, His eyes fastened on Judas, and Yeshua was instantly transported back to the matter at hand. They exchanged piercing glances and Mary's Son could already see satan enter into the heart of the only disciple from Judah. With eyes locked, the Father showed Him flashes of what was about to transpire and the only begotten could not help but wince in response. The isolation in the garden. The betrayal. The blows. The scattering of His closest friends. The tearing of flesh. The horror in His mother's eyes. The hardest walk of His life. Becoming sin. The scapegoat. The turning of His Father's back…
Suddenly, raised voices from nearby dissipated these haunting images and He wondered at the interruption. Snapping back to the present, the Son of Man could hear that His men were once again at odds over their ranking in the future Kingdom. Each was brandishing their resume. He called me first…I was in the room when the little girl was raised from the dead…how could you be ahead of me? You couldn't even heal that man's son!…surely you remember that I cast thirty-seven demons out of that old woman in Nain! No one at this table can say that!…
Here He was, the sin-Substitue of the world and His men were not even sympathetic to His impending plight. Judas was licking his chops and lining his wallet. They were indifferent, insensitive and prideful. And something else: they were selfish and inconsiderate. Already well into the evening's festivities, not one of these guys even thought about the dirty feet in that circle. Except for the Son of Man.
And yet, knowing what He was facing, and worse still having to put up with such tomfoolery from friends, Messiah could not shake a deeper feeling that kept rising to the surface: He loved these guys to the nth degree! John must have been a keen observer for it was he that wrote the amazing words found in his gospel:
"Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them to the end…" (13:1)
To the utmost. To the max. The nth degree. Can you imagine? With all that was churning in His fragile psyche on that night, He was most concerned for His men. He, the Passover Lamb, slotted for execution, the just for the unjust, innocent blood, unblemished nature. What was on His mind? Would these men know how much I loved them?
He not only taught the "second mile", He was the Second Mile! Check that: He was the nth mile! Go the second mile and you will still be eternally behind the Christ you follow! No way you can outlive, outlove, outgive and outserve this One. Not a chance.
The following is well documented in scripture. Jesus rose from the supper, took a towel and basin and washed each of the disciples' feet. Even wicked Judas. Each splash of water resounded with "I love you." Every wipe of the towel on newly bathed feet carried with it the proclamation, "I forgive you." As he restored the sandals to their rightful owners, His unspoken word was "I will never leave you, nor forsake you."
He showed us how, in this tender example and supremest of illustrations, that no matter how bad things may be for us, we can still take time to serve. He also demonstrated that when evil is present, our love can overshadow the wickedest of situations. And lastly (this is challenging, I know), there is no ministry so low and degrading when the Father calls us to rise from our place and serve— even the most undeserving. By the by, who says we aren't the most undeserving?