Conscience does make cowards of us all; And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought; And enterprises of great pith and moment, With this regard, their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action. Hamlet, Act III, scene i
Christ washing the disciples feet, Jacopo Tintoretto, wikiart.org
Now that you know the truth, how happy will you be if you put it into practice. John 13:17
Jesus puts his finger in the gap
Here Jesus is touching on the knotty business of the gap between knowledge and practice, between belief and action. He utters a startling statement to Peter that also appears a tad of an overstatement: If I do not wash your feet you will no longer be my disciple. Eh? I, as your Lord wash your feet, now follow me and wash each others feet. Again, it’s participate in the cycle of death to life, through humility. This is my path and its yours too and I’m determined to help you see this and lead you across this threshold. You’ll have to walk over your prone self to do it! Die to the self you try to preserve, protect and justify, put self second and others first. And then you'll be happy. I suspect he was being serious here! Jesus is in a very direct and physical way highlighting for us where most of our problems lie and pointing out where our greatest tasks lie. And they are located internally, they relate to our subtle motives and schemes to arrange life for our own personal ends.
A question of practice: Does putting other first really make a difference?
This scene is set within the context of a betrayal within the inner chamber of Jesus’s disciples. Peter will overstate his commitment and be found wanting. Later on in the narrative he will be asked, “If you love me, feed my sheep”. It is a question of practice, of love in action, putting other first. Does it really make a difference? Will it work for me, work for others? Breathtakingly Jesus answers consistently through a series of hardcore settings, just watch me!
Although we may find it excruciating and embarassing it can also be instructive and illuminating to, for a day or a week, notice how much of the day is about me and my own possibly undiscovered ends and my attempts to justify them.