Submitting without Understanding

Sometimes we just can't know - yet.

The Gospel of John: John 13.1-11

Read and meditate on John 13.6, 7.
Jesus provides so many lessons on discipleship in this situation, that we need to take our time, and make sure we understand them all. Or at least, submit to them all.

6But when He came to Simon Peter, he
said to Him, “Lord, and would You wash my feet?”
7And Jesus answered, “What I do you do
not understand, not now. But shortly you
will know.”

- John 13.6, 7

1.  Let’s try to put ourselves in the place of the disciples for a moment. Dinner had begun, yet evidently no one was available to wash everyone’s feet beforehand. That didn’t seem to bother the disciples – at least, not enough for anyone to volunteer for the task. So what do you suppose they might have been thinking as they saw Jesus rise from the table, take off His outer garment, and take up the towel and basin? Are we sometimes like the disciples here? Explain. Complete this prayer: Lord, I admit, I’m not always alert to the opportunities that crop up around me to…

2.  Jesus began washing the disciples’ feet. One important lesson in this situation is that the disciples should experience what it is like to be served by someone you love, and who loves you. Experiencing the grace of God is as important as hearing it proclaimed. Is there a disciple-making principle on display here? How might you incorporate that principle into your own calling to make disciples (Matt. 28.18-20)? Lord, I believe You can use me as a channel of Your grace, to touch others with Your unconditional love. So today, as I go out into my Personal Mission Field…

3.  Peter was being Peter again, questioning, even challenging the Lord, inclining to what he thinks should be done, rather than submitting to what the Lord has said or was doing (cf. Lk. 5.1-8; Matt. 16.21-23). Was there any doubt in Peter’s mind that Jesus intended to wash his feet? What was the real thrust of his question in verse 6? Why did he ask this? Do you ever find yourself asking a question like this of the Lord? Explain. Lord, sometimes I think I know better than You what I need in my life at any moment. Help me to see You, Jesus, exalted in glory, and to remember that…

4.  See how gracious Jesus was in responding. He didn’t chide Peter, as in Matthew 16.21-23. He simply acknowledged that what He was doing seemed to Peter upside-down, and difficult for him to understand. So why didn’t Jesus just take this opportunity to explain, like He finally will in verses 12-17? What was He expecting of Peter? Do you ever find yourself in the place of Peter, not quite understanding what the Lord is doing or saying, and thus, hesitant to go forward? Explain. Lord, the more clearly I see You, and the more truly I know You, the less I will…

5.  Jesus said that an explanation would be forthcoming, just not now. Here are two other principles of disciple-making. The first we considered in question 4: Whatever He says or wants to do, don’t challenge, simply submit (cf. Jn. 2.3-5). The second is that, as much as we can, we should explain the work of following Jesus to those who believe in Him. Discipleship should make sense; there should be a rationale to why disciples do what they do. But what is the focal point and final bar of appeal of that rationale? Our ability to understand completely, or to make sense of everything? Or something else (cf. vv. 15-17)? What principle of disciple-making can you discern from this? Bring together into one prayer the prayers you wrote for questions 1-4.

“The Lord of all creation washed his disciples’ feet! This was not an affront to his dignity but a demonstration of his boundless love for us. Yet however great his love was, Peter was well aware of his majesty. Always impetuous and quick to profess his faith, he was quick also to recognize the truth. The other disciples had let the Lord wash their feet, not with indifference but with fear and trembling. They dared not oppose the Master. Out of reverence, however, Peter would not permit it. He said, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet? You shall never wash my feet!’ Peter was adamant. He had the right feelings, but not understanding the full meaning of the incarnation, he first refused in a spirit of faith and afterward gratefully obeyed. This is how religious people ought to behave. They should not be obdurate in their decisions but should surrender to the will of God. For although Peter reasoned in human fashion, he changed his mind out of love for God.” Severian of Gabala (fl. ca 400 AD)

Following Jesus is about submitting to Jesus, regardless of whether what He commands or leads us to do makes sense to us. One day He will explain everything. For now, our duty is to submit. Is there any area of your discipleship where you are not submitting to Jesus, for whatever reason?

Closing Prayer
Teach me Your way, O LORD;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.
For great is Your mercy toward me,
And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
O God, the proud have risen against me,
And a mob of violent men have sought my life,
And have not set You before them.
But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious,
Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.
Oh, turn to me, and have mercy on me!
Give Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your maidservant.
Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

Psalm 86.11-17

Psalm 86.10-17 (Andrews: Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven)
For You are great, You wondrous deeds do;
You are the only and sovereign Lord.
Teach me Your way, let me give heed to,
With all my heart, Savior, all Your Word!
Lord, be gracious to me, Lord, be gracious to me,
Praise Your Name forever, Lord!

Great is Your mercy, Lord, toward me;
You have delivered my soul from hell.
Though dreadful foes and threats arrayed be,
You will Your grace and Your mercy tell!
Lord, be gracious to me, Lord, be gracious to me,
Slow to anger, loving well!

Turn to me, Lord; be gracious to me;
Grant me Your strength; save Your servant, Lord!
Let me a sign of something good see;
Shame all who hate me beneath Your Word.
Lord, be gracious to me, Lord, be gracious to me,
For You help me, sovereign Lord!

T. M. Moore

Jesus is the Centerpiece of all Scripture, as He Himself explained (Jn. 5.39). But how can we learn to see Him there? How do the primary themes of Scripture revolve around Jesus? Our online course, Introduction to Biblical Theology, shows you how best to get at, get into, and get with the Word of God, so that you can grow more consistently in the Lord. It’s free, and you can study at your own pace. For more information or to register, click here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series IV a and b: John, edited by Joel C. Elowsky, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006. Verse translation of John by T. M. Moore.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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