Yesterday, the First Trinity High School youth put on a car wash. From 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. they washed car after car after car and did it all without taking any money. While it was no surprise to me that some people tried to give us some money at first, it was interesting to see just how many of them almost refused to drive away without paying us. Even after we explained that this was just a way for us to serve our own community before we go on our mission trip to West Virginia in a week, they still couldn’t quite grasp the idea of free. One man, after we refused his money, went and bought a bunch of 2-liters of pop and cups and brought them back to us. Another man (from Ohio) went and ordered 2 pizzas for the teens as a sort of "payment”.
This got me thinking first about a story of a "car wash" of sorts in the Bible. Except they didn’t travel by car back then, but rather feet.
"It was just before the Passover…. The evening meal was being served… so [Jesus] go up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." (John 13:1-5)
As we’ll see later on in this story, this was a spiritual thing, connecting the disciples to Jesus, preparing them to serve after he was gone, setting an example for them. However, it was also a very practical thing; their feet were dirty… they used their feet to get around everyday on dirty, dusty roads. Jesus stepped in to meet a practical need. But just like the people at our car wash yesterday, some of the disciples resisted a little:
"He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’
Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’
‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’
Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’” (John 13:6-8)
Peter couldn’t dream of his master and teacher washing his feet. You see, this was the job delegated to the lowest of the lowest servants in a house. But as Jesus says later on in the chapter,
"Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." (John 13:14-17)
What this REALLY got me thinking about this morning was how hard it can be for our hearts to accept that Jesus’ gift of grace is truly FREE. If it was so difficult for some people at a car wash yesterday to accept the fact that a few teenagers would give up a little time to wash their car, how much more difficult is it for maybe some of those same people (and maybe some of us who have been Christians for our entire lives) to understand someone giving their very own SON … for me… freely. It is so difficult to wrap our minds around the truth that while we don’t deserve at all the gifts God wants to give us, he lavishes them all on freely.
Like the people at the car wash, and like Peter, I think our nature is to fight back a little with God…to say, "well at least let me help out"… "let me try to do SOMETHING in this process." But Jesus gently reminds us that that’s not how this works:
"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world…. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ… to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has FREELY given us in the One he loves." (Ephesians 1:4-6)
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the GIFT of God-not by works." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
We can’t do it on our own…not one single part. Yet we try so hard to do just that… to earn our forgiveness, to pay for it somehow. But again, it doesn’t really work that way, because Jesus already paid the price in full.
Help us to understand… in our heads AND our hearts Your true GIFT of grace, Lord! And then, as we remain rooted in you, may we live out our gratitude for your free gift in service to others.