John 13:1-17 (NLT):
Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. 2 It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
6 When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”
8 “No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”
Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”
9 Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”
10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.
The act of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet is one of the most beautiful teachings that Jesus shows us. It is an act of love, servitude, humbleness and leadership. I am always amazed, overwhelmed and humbled when I read this.
In a world where we’re told to be the best, Jesus says be the least. He tells us to put ourselves last and serve others. He tells us to shatter status because we are all equal, no matter if we walk the red carpet or clean it.
And He does not just tell us to behave this way – He models it himself. He is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, yet He kneels down and washes the feet of His disciples. Can you imagine what that was like for them? Can you imagine their shock and discomfort? I think I would have been like Peter, saying that my Lord and Saviour should not wash my feet, the feet of an unworthy sinner.
As I said in my previous devotional, this was Jesus’ last meal before His crucifixion. He could have indulged, He could have demanded to be served, He could have engaged in final comforts before the trials ahead. Yet, He chose to use His final hours to teach and serve. He chose to leave His disciples with a memory that would change their lives, change their attitudes and change their future ministry. They still didn’t understand what was to come later that night, despite Jesus telling them.
Luke 22:24-27 (NLT) tells us:
24 Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. 25 Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ 26 But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. 27 Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.
Here the disciples, while still seated at the Passover table, are arguing about who among them would be the greatest. This is after Jesus has revealed that one of them has betrayed Him, and that the Son of Man must die.
The disciples still don’t get it. They still don’t fully grasp who Jesus is and what will happen to him. They are still concerned with being the greatest. Jesus tells them that the greatest should take the lowest rank, that the leader should be a servant. He is telling them that glory and superiority are not important, that humbly serving others and putting oneself last is the goal. And He points to himself as an example.
Jesus’ words are completely counter-cultural, both then and now. Our world tells us to be the best, be the richest, have the most power and put oneself first. We are told to engage in greed, selfishness, immorality, prejudice and status. Culture champions those who look down on others, those who are superior, those who hold control.
Jesus tells us to do the opposite. He tells us to lower ourselves, to put others first, to serve rather than be served, to give to the poor rather than amass great wealth, to support and champion the poor, the needy, the underprivileged, the voiceless and the ignored. He tells us to bow humbly instead of raising ourselves higher.
This is an uphill battle in our world. We will face persecution and ridicule for following Jesus’ words. We will be treated poorly and mocked at times. So why do we do it?
Because He first did it for us. Jesus endured persecution, ridicule and unimaginable suffering for us. He was beaten, mocked and hung on a cross for us. He served us and then sacrificed Himself for us, because He loved us so much.
He asks us in return to serve and love each other as He has served and loved us.
John 13:31-35 (NLT):
31 As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man[h] to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. 32 And since God receives glory because of the Son,[i] he will give his own glory to the Son, and he will do so at once. 33 Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going. 34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”