John 13:15 “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
It was just before the Passover feast. Jesus and his disciples were in the upper room for what was the last supper. Although the disciples did not know what was about to happen, Jesus did. What did He decide to do in these final moments with them? He displays his love, humility and servanthood.
John 13: 4-5 “So he 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 disciple’s feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
Feet washing is not something we are accustomed to nowadays, but in those times, walking everywhere on dusty roads and reclining on a low seat for your meals made it a necessity for feet washing to be common practice. And it was usually the lowliest servant’s job to do it. In the upper room by themselves, there was no servant there to wash their feet. It did not occur to the disciples to either wash it themselves or wash each other’s feet.
Jesus exemplifies servant leadership by his actions. He says in Luke 22:27b “I am among you as one who serves.” And He demonstrated exactly that throughout his time on earth in more ways than one and this was one such beautiful example of His love for us all.
John 13:1 “It was just before the Passover feast; Jesus knew the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of His love.”
When Jesus was about to wash Peter’s feet, Peter was uncomfortable with the Lord doing such a thing for him and goes on to say that Jesus would never wash His feet.
In every occurrence with Jesus, there is always more than one lesson to be learnt. Besides depicting a heart of love, service and humility, he goes deeper into emphasising the metaphorical meaning and importance of allowing our feet to be washed by Him.
In verse 8 he tells Peter that “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Jesus is talking about the spiritual cleansing of salvation that happens when we repent and accept Him as our Lord and saviour. But in our daily walk, there are often times we muddy our feet with sin. If we continue on without taking those muddy stains to Jesus for cleansing, we are not abiding in Him or growing in our walk with Jesus as we allow those sins to remain a part of us. By submitting our muddy feet to Jesus, we are acknowledging our sin and desire to change those ways and walk on with each step in a way that does not grieve the Spirit.
In verse 10 Jesus says “The person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet.”
Notice that Jesus does not say, it will be good for a person to wash their feet. He says we ‘need’ to. We all know that we falter and we sin in our walk. But if we think that is just part of being human and it happens and are complacent in our attitude towards those weaknesses, we are not being truthful with ourselves. Jesus mentions the necessity of that daily feet cleansing that we need as a result of our imperfect daily walk with Him. That action says – Lord, what you want of me matters to me. Walking in obedience and changing my ways to abide closer to you, matters to me because of your love for me. I love you Lord and I do not want to treat your sacrifice for me in a manner less than worthy of what it should.
A daily reflection of our walk is necessary so that if there is anything that is displeasing to the Lord, we can take it to Him and ask Him for forgiveness and we must remember that genuine repentance is reflected by a change in our actions too. Just because we are recipients of His abundant grace it does not mean we keep on sinning (Romans 6:15)
Jesus goes on to say in verse 14-15 “Now that I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
Once again let’s take a note of the sentence not being just something that will be good to consider doing but Jesus says we ‘should’ be doing. Sounds more like an instruction that Jesus wants for us to follow. And the beautiful thing is He portrayed all this with actions first and then substantiated those actions with words.
It made me think about how I should be serving others. I realise that doing first and then using words in acts of service go a long way. It has a greater impact on who we serve and those that see us serve. Because then, when we get the opportunity we can point to Jesus as the reason for our actions.
In verse 16 Jesus continues to say “I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than the master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” This reminds me to ensure that we are to give all the glory to HIM when we serve and to guard ourselves against soaking in any praise that will lead to the sin of pride.
And the last verse of this story is a beautiful promise “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
Let’s take a note of the stipulation of our responsibility in this promise – ‘if we do them’, only then will we receive His blessing for it.
Let’s not forget our personal responsibility in all of this. We always have a choice
- A choice to accept Him as our Lord and Saviour
- A choice to abide closer to Him by submitting and allowing Jesus to wash our muddy feet reflecting our want to walk in obedience to Him.
- A choice to live a life emulating his servant heart.
As we dwell on serving others, I would like to observe here that we can be predisposed to serve with ease those we get along with or favour. But if we take a close look at Jesus washing his disciple’s feet. Nowhere does it say that He washed everyone’s feet except Judas’s. Judas was there in that room. Jesus knew he was to be betrayed and that Judas would be the one to do it and yet He washed all His disciple’s feet. That heart attitude is something we need to consider when we serve. We are to set aside any notions in our heart and mind, humble ourselves and serve. We are to love and to serve just as our Lord did.
May we imbibe this lesson in humility and strive to follow this principle of selfless service that should be a part of our Christian walk, a service that goes beyond our likes and dislikes because Jesus wants everyone to know and see His love demonstrated in a tangible way for which we are blessed that HE uses us.