Photo Credit: Ryan Klinck

Photo Credit: Ryan Klinck

By Andrea Lingle

The lamp smoke smudged the walls. Jesus was standing, his forehead on the wall, peering out the window from the corner of his eye. Behind him the disciples spoke in groups. Their conversation smudged the air. They were worried about the religious leaders. They were worried about money.
They wanted to know the hows when he had brought a why.
Jesus could smell the charcoal cookfire in the courtyard. It made him think of being a kid. How often had he sat beside a fire, looking up at the stars, talking to his brothers? The thick darkness making it safe to talk about whatever came to mind.

But he wasn’t a kid. His brothers weren’t here. And it was getting dark.

Peter thumped down on the pillow beside the table. A cloud of dust groaned out of the packed wool pillow-stuffing. He mopped his forehead with his sleeve. A circlet of sweat ringed his neck. It had been a long day—no, it had been a long year. This story had begun on the shore of a lake, surrounded by empty nets, and now he was sitting on the shore of a table, surrounded by empty plates. He had come empty, and he was still empty. How had he come to empty-handed man? A worthless, empty-handed man. His brother was never empty-handed, there he was now, setting the table for the passover. Andrew’s hands never knocked over the cups. Andrew’s words never tumbled ahead of his mind. Andrew, the steady brother.
Jesus stood up. He hung his robe on a peg set into the wall. It was made from the branch of an olive tree and along the left side there was a knot that swirled into a tangle of wood grain and interruption. Jesus’s hand shook as he tied the towel around his waist. Would all this ever feel real? His life, his ministry, these followers? He longed for a way to take them with him. To carry their spirit, their gruffness, their joy with him along this way. This final way.
The water sloshed back and forth as Jesus tugged the basin into place in front of Peter. A little spilled and spread out on the floor.
“Jesus, what are you doing?” Peter’s voice was startled. He drew his arms around himself, trying to keep his friend from seeing how not-enough he felt. “Don’t wash my feet. The servant will be around to do that.” Peter held Jesus back. This was too much. Peter had nothing to give. He never had anything to give but temper and debacle. “No, don’t wash my feet.”
“Peter, I know…” his voice trailed off into longing. “But if you don’t let me do this, I won’t be able to take you with me.”
Peter’s eyes filled with tears. Water splashed over his ankles. He wanted to curl up in the basin and let Jesus wash him all over with tears and water. This was not what he had expected that day by the boats. This was not what he thought would happen when he stood up to cast his nets into that deep and terrible water. This water, this act, this mercy, was not what he thought it would be.

A scriptural imagination based on John 13. May this Holy Week meet you unexpectedly.

A Lenten Blessing:

 May the blessing of lament bring you rest, and may you find strength in knowing that God inhabits your sorrow.