In the those last hours Jesus had with His disciples I'm sure He wanted to use that time as effectively as possible. What to tell them, how much to tell them, how to tell them. What were the biggest burden on His heart? What was most important to leave them with? What He wanted them most to remember? With that, and Jesus knowing everything, He knew too that actions do speak quite loudly. What actions did He make in those moments that were slipping away that would make an impression on them that will never fail. A visual, if you will, of the summation of all Jesus wants them to remember of Him.
In the upper room there are few things that happen that I think we all remember by the picture image or famous paintings of Jesus and the apostles time there.
1) "...so he (Jesus) got 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 13:4-5) Here we see that there were no words. Jesus didn't say a word. He just got up, got the towel, water, basin and began washing the apostles feet. The apostle Peter was so shocked because there had been no words, no preparation, no explanation of why Jesus was trying to wash his feet. Peter begins to argue with Jesus and that's when Jesus speaks. "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." (John 13:7) Jesus also says, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." (John 13:8) Jesus then takes the time, (which in my thinking He didn't have much of) and washes each of the apostles feet. To wash their feet shows how we are to serve one another. To consider others better than ourselves.
I remember back in 1991 when I met a woman, Mother Howard, as we called her, and how in awe I was for her complete love devotion she held for Jesus and how wisdom poured from her mouth whenever she spoke. Talking with her was so powerful that I found myself literally sitting at her feet. She would tell me to sit in a chair, but something about her humbled me to the floor. I understand or see myself washing another's feet, but having someone wash mine...Jesus washing mine...I'm brought to tears. The image of Jesus on the floor with a towel around His waist, basin of water and dirty feet...there are no words, but an imagine that says, "Serve as I have served."
I also am struck that He washes all twelve apostles feet~ even Judas. What does that say to us? To serve even our enemies. Serve those who hate us and betray us. The action of washing Judas' feet is more powerful to me than any words that have been spoken about how to love or forgive my enemies. Washing an enemies feet says it all. There is no discussion, no arguing, simply...serve even your enemies.
2) Whenever I think of the upper room I think of the 'Last Supper' meal. I can see in my mind Jesus sitting in the center of a long table with six apostles on each side of Him and Jesus, with arms raised, holding a piece of bread. Being raised in the Roman Catholic faith I took part in Communion every Sunday. The priest would hold up the bread and quote the scriptures, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22: 19) He would then break the bread and lay it down on a brass dish. Then the priest would take up a goblet filled with wine and quote the scriptures, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." (Luke 22:20) Then like the apostles, we would all take part eating the bread and drinking the wine. If you stop and think for a moment, we are still breaking bread and drinking wine as Jesus did 2,000 years later. We are doing what He did. How wild is that?! Jesus said to do lots of things, but here's one of Jesus' actions that we are still doing faithfully today.
3) I think hearing the 'cock crow' would have been devastating. Jesus told Peter that he would betray Jesus, but Peter didn't believe that would ever happen until he heard the rooster caw. And you may ask, "Why is this a significant 'action' to remember? Well, Jesus washed Peter's feet, broke bread with them, told them that He was going to give up His very life for them, knowing all the while that he was going to be betrayed by them all. We remember Peter's betrayal because of that 'cock crowing.' Peter remembered it too. What volumes does that speak? Jesus loves me when I sin...even when He knew I'd sin before I did. Forgiveness is offered for sin-even before the sin is committed. Jesus' heart loves us that much.
4) Jesus praying that night... We say to one another, "Pray in the tough times," and that's great advice, but there have been times where I was sooooo worried, scared, or frightened that I had no words for prayer. I couldn't settle my anxiety to pray. (I am by no means proud of the fact that I couldn't or didn't pray through some tough times, but that's the truth). Jesus' example of praying to the Father in a time of more anxiety, and fear that I ever have known or will ever know speaks louder to me than any words. Jesus was going through such distress that He was sweating blood and still He prays, "...yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42b) The heart of complete surrender and complete trust in the Father's will...there are no words.
5) Jesus standing in front of Pilate and saying nothing. I remember the first time I saw the movie, "Jesus of Nazareth." The part where Pilate is asking question after question to Jesus and yet Jesus doesn't answer. I remember my heart racing and sitting on the edge of my seat because I knew what was going to happen. I could hardly stand it. I heard myself yell out, "Tell him!" I wanted Jesus to explain who He was, I wanted Jesus to show Pilate a miracle because I didn't want Jesus scourged. When they took Jesus away I cried. I thought, "It didn't have to happen~ had Jesus only explained to them, had He only spoke." The action of not speaking. The action of silence. The ultimate surrender to the Father's will is screaming at us! Jesus could have spoken to Pilate and convinced him not to scourge or crucify him, but Jesus did not speak.
6) The Cross. "...he now showed them the full extent of his love." (John 13:1b) The greatest action of love the whole world has ever known. "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34) I believe Jesus speaks those words to all of us, not just for those who were at the sight of the cross. Jesus spoke out forgiveness, His blood sacrifice, for all generations to come. The cross was for them, for us now and for those who are still to be born. Jesus, being God, could have told us that we were loved and forgiven by Him, but He showed us instead.
7) "After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said." (Matthew 28: 1-6) The empty tomb...a risen Savior...freedom for all.
All of Jesus's words speak loudly and so do His actions.
Oh Lord, Let that be said of me.
Lord, I pray that my life will reflect not only your teaching, but your actions too. Help me to serve my brothers, sisters in Christ, my neighbors, and my enemies. Help me to receive your love and forgiveness when I sin. Help me to be still and pray in the midst of the hardest trial. Help me to surrender my life, my will, completely to you. Help me to live a life, filled with Godly actions, worthy to be called your servant. Amen.