On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover? So he sent two of His disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him.” (Mark 14:12-13)
I read this passage the other day, and my commentary’s remarks rocked my world. What I learned was that in ancient Palestine, men would never be seen carrying a jar of water in public. That was women’s work, and to be seen doing the work of a woman was to lower yourself to a point of humiliation that most people wouldn’t dare stoop to.
Interesting. Whether Jesus had prearranged for this man to be there carrying a pitcher of water, or Jesus’ omniscience allowed foreknowledge that this man would be there, it has to be noted that the man – nameless and faceless in the annals of history – was used by God because he was willing to do something his culture said was ridiculous. He was used because of a degree of humility that made him stand out among his contemporaries.
I’m here writing about this man today…and you’re reading about him and thinking about his story…because he was willing to do something that many would say was below him. His humility made him useful to the Lord, and that earned Him a permanent place in the story of God.
I have to think here of all of the things we have opportunity to do each day that might seem ridiculous, but that would make us perfectly available to be used by God.
A few years ago, soon after my husband and I were married, we went to WalMart to pick up a few things. As we drove up toward the front of the store, looking for a parking place, we saw a woman, stooped with age, struggling to pull a shopping cart out of the parking lot and down the street. I told Scott, “If she’s still there when we get out and up to the store, we have to help her.” He agreed (there’s a reason I love this man), and when we reached the doors to the store, the woman was still nearby. We – dressed from church and ready for lunch and a nap – approached the woman and offered our assistance.
We soon learned from conversation that her name was Mildred and her home was about a quarter of a mile down the road. We learned from observation that she was blind, ill, and needed our help more than we ever could have known.
As we walked, we talked, aware somehow of the cars driving by and the people who had to be wondering what they were witnessing. We were in it, though, and were going to see it through. We finally reached her humble trailer, surrounded by chickens and roosters who were less than thrilled with our presence. We visited for a little while, Scott installed her new TV, and we fed her chickens before walking back down the road to resume our shopping.
The walk back to WalMart and through the store was an interesting one. We were aware that God had used us somehow, because we knew that we had done what He asks us to do in situations like that. We couldn’t see the impact we made, though, and we didn’t know if anything for Miss Mildred would be any different after having crossed paths with us.
We had done a strange thing, and were changed by it.
I tell that story not to pat us on the back, but to give an everyday example of a strange opportunity that can pass us by if we’re overly concerned with custom or public opinion. It would have been far too easy for us to watch Miss Mildred slowly creep down the road, sadly exchanging glances with one another. In far too many cases, that is the way I have chosen. I am not perfect, either.
Every day, I pray that God would make me invisible. I ask Him to erase my image and replace it with His, that He may be seen through anything and everything I do. There is power in that. Releasing my life into His hands – rather than my own – ensures that I will be more than I could be alone. It also means, though, that I am vulnerable. If I am invisible, I am available to what He needs me to do…and because I do not exist for myself, I will do what I am asked to do, regardless of what that may mean for me.
It is a strange existence.
What it does, though, is to open my world up.
What if the man on the road in Jerusalem had said, “I am NOT going to carry a jar of water. Women do that, not men, and I will not be seen doing that. What would people think? What would they say? Absolutely not. I won’t do it.” What if?
The answer? He would not have been used in one of the most well-known portions of Scripture. The story of the Last Supper would have been different. Another person would have had to step in, and someone else would have a place in the story.
I can’t speak for you, but when I think about myself being in a position like that, I desperately hope and pray that God will give me the humility to say yes to His plans. It gives me chills to think that God might present me with an opportunity to have any role in His story of the world…and that I might choose my comfort over His glory.
Those humbling, invisible moments might look different for all of us. Chances are, it won’t involve carrying a jug of water through the streets. It might involve steering an overloaded shopping cart down the road for an older woman. It might require us to empty the trash at church, or volunteer to walk a stranger to their car. It might mean spending a holiday serving food to the homeless, or singing with children at a nursing home.
Who knows? There is a place for all of us that is just too far to imagine, and God wants to take us there. He wants to take us to that place of “anywhere but there,” and when He does, He’ll be there with us. We’ll be invisible and, if we ask Him to make it so, He will be made abundantly clear. What greater promise can we have?