The Unloved

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The Unloved

Genesis 29:31-35

When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren. Leah conceived and bore a son, and she named him Reuben; for she said, “Because the Lord has looked on my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.” She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also”; and she named him Simeon. Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be joined to me, because I have borne him three sons”; therefore he was named Levi. She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the Lord”; therefore she named him Judah; then she ceased bearing.

John 13:1-17

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them”

The Bible is full of stories about the patriarchs of the faith and often, tangentially, the women in their lives. This is typical for the genre of spiritual literature, particularly from the ancient world. Women are not the main players in most of those stories, and women in secondary roles usually remain nameless. The role of women is one of the places that the Bible breaks away from the cultural norms of the time. Women are named and their stories are told as well. God notices not only Abraham, but Sarah as well. Even more, God notices Hagar, the servant woman, and blesses her and her illegitimate child as well.

It is not surprising to us then, that God has a special blessing for Leah, the first wife who was relegated to secondary status because she was used to keep Jacob as a servant for her father when she was switched out for her younger sister Rachel, the bride he intended to marry. She was not neglected and cast out the way Hagar was. But she was locked into a shadow life playing handmaid to her sister and husband. God blessed her with children to fill her life.

That blessing carried with it the temptation to flaunt her ability to bear children over her sister’s infertility, the way Hagar did to Sarah. However, God does not bless his children so they can tease, taunt, and retaliate upon each other. Perhaps this is why Jesus taught his disciples that blessings are given to be shared. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and then charged them to do the same for each other. Instead of fighting over who got the best blessing, Jesus called them to share all that they had been given with one another. “Freely you have received, freely give.”

How has God met you when others would or could not?

How have you shared that blessing with others?

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