As I write this, my family is on day 11 of being evacuated from our community because of flooding. We were not in the flood’s path, but the damage done to the water and sewage infrastructure required evacuation of the whole town anyway. We are very thankful for how God has provided for us, but experiencing cabin-fever from being away from home.
My testimony for almost three decades has been that God speaks to his children through his word in the most real and personal of ways no matter what we are going through. The stage that is set by this present experience may be unique for us, but hearing God speaking through his word in the midst of it is no longer anything new.
Yesterday morning I began my time with God by considering how his thoughts must be magnificently different from mine. Knowing that I rely on what is called slow-track thinking while being oblivious to what my fast-track thinking is telling me is humbling. So much to learn.
This settled into considering that God knows. I love meditating on this even though I know I don’t know how his thoughts work, or how communication of thoughts happens between the Triune. As G. Campbell Morgan once said, “Out of wonder worship is born.” I love watching what wonder does to my spontaneous worship of the Triune God.
With this setting the stage, I came back to the passage in John 13 about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. I noticed that three times John tells us that Jesus knew something.
1. “when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father” (vs 1)
2. “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God,” (vs 3)
3. “For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’” (vs 11)
The knowingness of Jesus is woven through the introduction to this evening in Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, but also through everything he taught that night, his high priestly prayer, the Garden of Gethsemane, and everything to do with his crucifixion.
What stood out from all this was that Jesus acted out of what he knew. Everything he did that night was on the stage of what he knew. That needs a whole sermon in itself! However, I realized right away that we already do this as well, we act out of what know, which is often just what we think we know.
What pierced my heart was the awareness of how many relationships are being hurt by people acting on what they think they know as if there is no possible way they might be mistaken. This is the curse of self-justification, that we immaturely imagine that our view of things is the only one that counts, we believe we know more than anyone else, and so, when we act on what we imagine we know, our actions are very self-protective of ourselves and usually quite hurtful towards others. What I know about how the sark/flesh affects this, along with dissociation and enemy mode, clearly calls me to seek to know what Jesus knows!
The phrase that stands out about the disciples in this regard is, “Jesus answered him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand’” (vs 9). I feel this way about our experience with the disaster in our community right now. There are so many things we don’t understand about rebuilding highways, how water treatment and sewer systems work and how they need to be repaired, and even how to cleanup a house after flooding without getting sick from asbestos, mold, or any other toxins that might be in the air or soaking wet belongings.
But this is even more of a problem when we consider that we simply can’t imagine that we know as much as Jesus knows about how he is fulfilling prophecy, carrying out the plan of the Triune’s purposes, handling all the injustices in the world, and seeking and saving his lost sheep knowing exactly when the last one will be brought into the fold.
The conclusion for me is that finding out what Jesus knows seems to be the calling on all of us who are his family by grace through faith. It is not like we will ever know as much as he knows, but that we can know what he is saying to us right now, we can know what the Triune us doing around us that requires our participation, and we can join them in their work as far as it involves our part of the body of Christ so that we can know the mind of Christ and act on what he knows.
Because the focus of the foot-washing ministry of Jesus calls us to serve one another in love, opening our hearts to all the ways this can happen includes seeking to know the way Jesus knows. I don’t simply want to know information, like, “what would Jesus do?” I want to know relationship-realities that open my eyes to what he is doing so that I am joining him in his work. To know that his work will be serving others in love (even the Judases who might betray us), tunes my heart to spend more time in fast-track thinking that comes from my mind being set on the Spirit.
The closest I have come to the parallel with Jesus washing his disciples’ feet was back when I was traveling to minister to our first home church in another community. On my drive, it felt like God was convicting me that I was to include foot washing as part of my ministry to the handful of people who were the core group. I did not know at the time that there was a Judas among us, but there is some comfort in making the association right now.
I also did not know that this group would cut ties with us in a way that made Jesus’ experience of his disciples deserting him also add a measure of comfort (while knowing that I am never faultless like Jesus). It is significant to me that a decade later, this present journey through John 13 is showing me more than I was aware of at the time, almost like what Jesus said about his disciples not understanding things at the moment but seeing them clearly later on.
At the time, I was going through a huge battle in my mind because of the strangeness of the prompting to wash the feet of these siblings in Christ. I don’t believe Jesus was teaching us to keep washing each other’s feet when we mostly wear shoes and socks all the time. And it didn’t feel at all like he was telling me to start a new tradition for our home churches. It simply felt like he was doing something with this home church that would be helped along if the pastor would humble himself to minister to these people in such a visual expression of serving them in love. And so, I did.
Afterwards, I discovered that God had been speaking to one of our women about the exact thing he was leading me to do. She was sure that God was doing something in relation to foot washing. She didn’t say anything to anyone, perhaps for the same reason I felt I should not discuss my side of things with anyone. But she was watching for it.
At the very same time that I was on the verge of giving up on this idea because it felt so unusual and insecure to me, this person had discovered the water basin and towels I had already prepared in another room. I did not know this at the time. Afterwards I was horrified to think of the damage I would have done if I had disobeyed what the Spirit was leading me to do. At the same time, because I obeyed and joined God’s work, it spoke to this person very clearly about God’s leading.
I do not know if anything will ever happen to restore us to the people who left our ministry. However, as I make another journey through the chapters of God’s word that describe Jesus’ suffering and death, I do know that God is teaching me to continue seeking the mind of Christ no matter how many betrayals, denials, and desertions I experience.
As that relates to soon going back to a flood-ravaged community, I am sure there will be some acts of service required today with my family, and expressions of love to show community members when we get home. With that in mind, I am willingly surrendering to the Spirit and whatever he has to do to me to lead me into this work. Jesus is my example, and the Savior who makes it possible to be like him.
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)
 Slow-track thinking is what we would call our conscious thoughts. It is the part of our brain we use to consciously think things through, or carry-on conversations, or write blog posts. Fast-track thinking is what our brains are doing faster than we can keep up. It is the way we have automatic responses to things we haven’t thought through. When we walk in a room and immediately feel drawn to one person while wanting to avoid another, we are experiencing the fast-track reading people and situations and reacting faster than our slow-track can process. Even if this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, it’s just something I am now aware of about myself, and something that makes me marvel at the mind of Christ that is not limited to the functioning of our brains with all our corresponding baggage of thoughts and emotions that often seem to have a mind of their own.
 The New Testament is full of references to the flesh (“sark” or “sarx” in the original Greek), always as an enemy of life in the Spirit. When the flesh believes it knows something, it cannot conceive of God’s way of seeing things, but is convinced that its way is the right way. Dissociation is the ability of our brains/minds to separate our mind/emotions from traumatic experiences so we are not constantly living with the conscious awareness of our trauma. This means that a dissociative person will have an incomplete view of some situations while feeling like they have the whole view and the only view that feels right to them. “Enemy mode” is a new expression that summarizes what is happening in our brains when the relational-mode level of our brains turns off out of fear and we are unable to read situations in a relational way. Again, this view cannot factor in all the information of what is going on, reads everything as if it is dealing with enemies, and imagines its view is the best one (lessons from, The Joy Switch, © 2021 Chris Coursey, Northfield Publishing). What this means is that I must be far more understanding of why it is so difficult for people to agree on situations, and make the focus on each person trying to attach to the mind of Christ so that what he knows changes what we believe, how we feel, and what we do. Until we want to know what Jesus knows, we will have tremendous difficulty resolving relationship conflicts.