I’m gearing up for my preaching final later today. We had to choose a narrative from the Gospels to preach and I naively chose John 13, the account of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.
I actually had a pretty cool idea in mind when I chose the passage, but in endeavoring to faithfully preach I let the text speak to me and tell me what it had to say to God’s people. Of course, I ended up light years away from where I started and had to sadly tuck my cool idea away for another time.
I say I naively chose this passage because it is easy to preach when you do the message everyone has heard and expects. “You should wash one another’s feet.” It’s not so easy when you look at the flow of John’s thought. He plants seeds along the way that indicate this passage has a lot more going on than simply the actual footwashing.
This story is about Jesus and the ones who would betray him: Judas in his actual betrayal, Peter in his denial, and all the others in their scattering. It appears that only one of the disciples stuck around until the end.
All of the disciples had false expectations about who Jesus was and what was coming to them in his kingdom. All of them had ambitions that were at odds with what Jesus intended to do. It’s easy to vilify them in hindsight, “Those foolish disciples, they should have known better. I would have.”
We wouldn’t have. We don’t.
Our false expectations lead us to try and force God’s hand, just as Judas did. We try to corner him into acting the way we want him to act and are just as hurt and disillusioned as Judas when it all falls apart and we come face to face with our Lord: the suffering servant who beckons us to follow him.
The only true expectation we’re left with in this story is that Jesus will lay down his life in the face of our betrayal.