I’ll go to see just about any superhero movie that comes out. So, I’m loving the current movie battle between Marvel and DC.
This morning, I was thinking about the story of one of those superheroes. Meet Steve Rogers.
Steve is a short, skinny kid and he’s been the target of bullies for most of his life. He has a goal of joining the Army and fighting in World War II. Yet, he is denied time and time again.
Finally, one doctor listens to his pleas and he hears Rogers say that he just wants to fight a bully. That doctor sees something in Rogers that everyone else missed — he sees that Rogers has heart.
What happens next is amazing. Through the power of medicine and a little luck, short, skinny Steve Rogers is transformed into Captain America. His heart leads Rogers to a transformation.
I doubt that you are any more Captain America than I am. But the heart is what can lead us to transformation and life change.
So maybe the big question is, “How do we get there?”
To answer that, lets talk about a group of 13 guys.
This group is gathered in a room for dinner. You can probably imagine that the conversations are loud. There is laughter and even a little excitement over what has happened in the previous few days. Those days had involved cheers, celebration and the flipping of a few tables.
This was an incredible night for this “band of brothers.” Or, it should have been. The leader of the group has been mostly silent up to this point. He watches the faces of each of his followers as they laugh and talk. The leader knew that his death was imminent.
After listening to them, the leader stands up and begins to do some things that would raise eyebrows.
For starters, he gets down on his knees and he washes the feet of the other 12 in the room. Gasps and shock now enter their conversations. “Why is our leader washing our feet? Shouldn’t we be washing his?”
When the finishes, the leader challenges them to always be willing to put others above themselves, to serve one another.
Then, he introduces them to a new kind meal. It’s simple really — bread and wine. We call it the Lord’s meal, Holy Communion, the Eucharist.
He sends more shockwaves when he says that one of his followers is going to betray them all. That leads the one named Judas to slip out of the room. As Judas is going, the leader tells him to go and do it quickly. Yet, no one else seems to notice that Judas is gone.
Another of his followers, the one named Peter, boldly proclaims that he will be with the leader until the end. Peter is told that he will also turn his back on the group tonight. Peter just doesn’t believe it is possible.
That leader is, of course, Jesus and those statements that he makes throughout the meal certainly came as a shock to this group of disciples who have been with him for three years.
Maybe those words would seem shocking to us today except that we know where Jesus was heading. He was going to be arrested, tried and executed. Jesus didn’t have to be the Son of God to see that one coming.
People who know their time is near don’t seem to waste their time on pointless conversations. They get to the important stuff, to the lasting stuff, to the eternal stuff, to what really matters. That’s exactly what Jesus did.
In between Judas leaving to betray him and Peter making his bold claims, Jesus does some teaching. He calls it a “new” commandment.
John 13:31-35 paints a picture of these important words. Here they are:
Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
The Gospels give many accounts of Jesus teaching his disciples more about the commandments that he had given. This “new” commandment is really the same as the other commandments that Jesus taught his followers for the past three years.
It starts with God and love for God. Jesus had that and his work was to bring glory to God.
Then it goes to loving others. Love others as Jesus has loved you. Jesus showed them what that looked like when he washing their feet.
Then, it points us to ourselves. Because we love God and we love others, it’s also important to love ourselves. This is not something that is arrogant or obnoxious. Love rooted in God and placing others above ourselves leads us to love ourselves in a healthy way. After all, we are created in the image of God, we have sacred worth, and we have eternal value. You get the picture?
Let’s just simply state it this way: Love God. Love Others. Love Yourself. Love for God always comes first. It is by loving God that we learn and grow to love even more. Love for others comes second because Jesus, in his example of the foot-washing, is challenging his followers to place others above themselves. Loving ourselves is important as well and the love for God and the love for others brings out the best in our hearts.
It might not transform us into Steve Rogers/Captain America, but it can transform our hearts and, in the process, transform us.
It’s simply impossible to experience a true reset that is not rooted in love.
Love God. Love Others. Love Yourself.
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