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Jesus has invested time over many years with these men. They have travelled together, labored together, taken meals together, faced challenges together. He has taught them, comforted them, empowered them, led them. Now he sits with them around a table in an upper room to share a Passover meal with them–something he most likely has done more than once in their journey together.

As he sits there with them, he knows. In a few hours they will all abandon him. They will pray together, but before the evening is out they will all scatter, abandoning him. Most will simply flee their separate ways when trouble comes. But that one, Judas, has already made arrangements to sell Jesus out to those who are seeking his death. And the one sitting near him, Peter, will publicly declare with oaths that he doesn’t even know the man named Jesus from Nazareth.

None of them will give back in relationship with Jesus anything like the love and attention and affection and kindness and grace and service that he has lavishly poured out on them. Having taken so much from him, they will leave him alone. And he knows this.

That is what makes what happens in that upper room so marvelously helpful in understanding what it means to “follow Jesus.”

Jesus knowing that his hour had come that he would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. . .  Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, he girded himself. Then he poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded. (John 14:1-5)

Jesus loved his own, loving them all the way “to the end.” Jesus served them by washing their feet because the need was real and he was willing to serve them. Jesus washed the feet of those who would abandon him. Jesus ministered to those who would deny and betray and leave him. Jesus was free to live in the kind of love that we are called to extend to one another because he was living in a non-reciprocal relationship with his disciples.

Jesus was going to be who the Father wanted him to be–who he wanted to be–regardless of how these avowed “close friends” did or did not reciprocate. Jesus was going to love freely, give freely, serve freely, expecting nothing in return.

He looks so much like his Father doing that! (Luke 6:35)

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