– C.S. Lewis
I’m told that dancing is mostly about footwork. I wouldn’t know; I’m a white guy with zero dance-ability.
It might surprise you to know that Jesus danced for His followers during a very famous night of celebration long ago. It wasn’t a whimsical, rousing Jewish dance but a very slow, graceful choreography of movement. Before He got down to the business of footwork that punctuated the evening’s meal, He stitched together six very deliberate movements that picture for us a skilled danseur at work.
While His steps are easy-to-follow they are much more awkward-to-emulate.
If you go to the top of this post and read the scripture from John 13, you’ll find I underlined the steps – the movements – for you. John tells us the occasion: the Passover meal shared between Jesus and His supporting cast. For three-plus years He’d rehearsed the moves with them but they still had not gotten them down. They were certainly not ready for prime time, so the Master sequestered them in an upstairs dining hall, spacious and conducive for one final practice run.
Had He tired of them?
Was He ready to cut them from His troupe?
Had He lost hope they would master the moves?
Only one. No, not Simon Peter (much as you and I would support his being cut), but the member who couldn’t be taught, wouldn’t be taught. Judas. He was satan’s apprentice and would remain so to his dying breath a day later.
I won’t go into the cultural backdrop of Jesus’ reason for rising from supper, only saying again that His oft-repeated lessons of serving, lowering one’s self, preferring others in honor, being last, seeking out the far chair, and risking their love on others had – yet again – fallen on deaf ears. They couldn’t hear the Music – yet – so their footwork was off.
So He rose.
He, who had to get Himself ready for the Command Performance of His Life. He’d already mastered these moves and was on to Bigger and Infinitely Better, um, things…but still had to treat His brothers as initiates, as novices, and did so –
John points out that Jesus looked over His brothers with a fondness that went deeper than mere companionship. The phrase, “He loved them to the end” doesn’t mean in time or duration. The word John uses means ‘to the fullest extent, the ultimate, fitting conclusion, the exclamation point on their relationship’. Jesus was doing more than a dress rehearsal in the Dance Hall. He was giving them a private, intimate performance so they would understand how loved they were.
“Master, what-wha-? No! Never!”
“Peter, you have to let Me! It’s what agape love looks like…”
And, inferred, of course, is:
Take notes, boys, this is the choreography of koineneia. If you learn – and do – this dance, the world will be obliged to join you.”
- He rose from supper (initiating a risky, controversial act)
- He removed his outer garment (exposing His true nature as a servant)
- He took a towel (having now crossed the line, He was obliged to see it through)
- He tied it around His waist (forever leaving the imprint of His action on their memories)
- He poured water into a basin (leaving no doubt as to His intent)
- He began to wash and wipe His disciples’ feet (further emptying Himself as a seal of His surrender to His ‘bride’)
The number of man.
And on this Passover eve, we find ourselves transported again by Jesus’s portrayal – AS THE SON OF MAN – of what humanity has been created for – if they’d (we’d!) only learn the steps. And dance.
Thank You, Jesus, for showing and teaching us so well.