Do you question yourself after some heroic event by asking what if that had been me? Every time some tragic or tough thing is reported I tend to wonder how I would have handled it? It was amazing to watch the rescue of the miners this week. It is difficult to imagine how they handled that first seventeen days when there was no communication from outside. I’m sure there was a sense of panic in most if not all the men. But I’m just as certain that someone stepped up as the leader of the group. God has made us in such a way that in times of tragedy and struggle someone always becomes the leader of the group. It isn’t always a good thing, its just true. If the leader that steps forward is negative, and worries about everything then the whole group will be in trouble. I wonder in the group of miners if the same man was the leader of the group before the accident as afterward.
Leaders change even when they remain the leaders. Peter was the leader of the twelve apostles of Jesus. But he wasn’t always a good leader. His abrupt nature and the fact he was always first to speak up seems to have made him the leader of the group. He would go from the highest highs to the lowest lows in very short order. Think of Peter on the night of the last supper when they were all gathered in the upper room. He was among the group who sat stiff thinking someone else should be the one to admit they were on a lesser scale and get up to wash the feet of the group. When Jesus arose and laid aside his outer garments and wrapped a towel around his waist, filled a basin with water and started down the row washing the disciples feet, it didn’t take long to reach Peter.
When Jesus bowed before Peter to wash his feet, Peter declared “No, you will not wash my feet.” Jesus said, “If I don’t wash your feet you have no part with me.” Suddenly Peter is ready to have his feet, head, hands and everything else washed. Notice he went from one that wouldn’t serve to one who wouldn’t be served to one who is ready to be served. It is just as hard for a proud person to be served as it is to serve. I wonder how Peter reacted when Jesus said, I’ve left you an example that just as I have washed your feet you ought to wash one another’s feet.” I would guess it was hard for Peter to accept the whole notion that “If you know these things happy are you if you do them.”
What if you and I had been there to take the last supper with Jesus and the disciples? Would we have jumped up as soon as everyone was in the room to get a towel and a basin so we could wash the feet of the Lord and the apostles? Would we have remained at the table with the others when Jesus got up to begin the process of serving? Would we have allowed him to wash our feet? Would we have learned from him the value of serving so that the next time we were together we would have been the first up to get the towel and basin? We can never know for sure what we would have done in those situations any more than we can know for sure how we would have reacted if we had been one of those miners.
Jesus gave us a way to check ourselves when he pictured how people reacted when they were invited to a party or a special meal. Some quickly made their way to the best seats in the house. Some moved to the front of the line where the pictures were being taken to make sure they would be in the shots that were published. Some lingered at the back and took the worst places, somewhat wondering what they were doing there to begin with. His challenge to the people was not to push for the best seats or the front of the line but to take the lowest spots. Then when the master arrived you might be asked to move up instead of being told to give your place to someone more important who had arrived.
Instead of spending lots of time and effort wondering what if, it would be much better to ask what do I do in the situations I do face? We all have opportunities to be heroes for someone just about every day. It may be a child that needs our attention and encouragement. It may be a young mother who is exasperated with a crying baby and has no one to help. It may be a homeless person who is hungry and doesn’t know where to turn. It may be a teenager faced with the biggest decision of their life and needing someone to listen. It may be someone older, in a strange city, lost, alone and afraid. No there won’t likely be cameras waiting to take your picture and flash it on the news when you become one of these people’s hero. Probably no one but you, them and God will ever know the difference. But Jesus did say, anyone who just gives a drink of cold water in the name of a disciple would never lose their reward.
It is not “What if?” that counts but “What is”.