Nothing reveals the true heart and character of a person like extreme trial. Let a person live under what seems an unbearable strain and you’ll soon learn what they are made of. Placed into the fiery forge some are ruined while others are refined. Some crumble others are confirmed. Haven’t you been amazed by how some people handle adversity? There are those who face dark, troublesome days with grace, dignity, and strength. They shine in the midst of adversity while others fail. But no one ever shined as brightly as the Lord Jesus in those dark hours before the cross. As we approach the 13th chapter of John’s Gospel, His death is imminent. Eternity has been aimed at this very moment. Life and death; heaven and hell hinge on this moment. God’s eternal plan is unfolding. History’s greatest moment lies just ahead. God’s lamb is being prepared for slaughter. The weight of eternity is on His heart. The God/man, the Lord of Glory, the Creator of all that is, the Eternal One is about to become sin for us.
The hour of His glorification has come. Seated at table with the twelve He does a most remarkable thing. Knowing His time has come; knowing He has already been betrayed; knowing that all things have been put under His power He got on His knees and washed the feet of stubborn, sinful men and taught us the meaning of servanthood.1
READ John 13:1-5
1Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
So Jesus is at the end of his ministry. He’s trained the twelve and is preparing for his death. You would think maybe Jesus would be giving them a to-do list to follow here at the final moments. But instead, Jesus picks up a towel and starts washing the disciples feet.
Foot-washing was needed in Palestine. The streets were dusty and people wore sandals without socks or stockings. It was a mark of honor for a host to provide a servant to wash a guest’s feet; it was a breach of hospitality not to provide for it (cf. 1 Sam. 25:41; Luke 7:40-50; 1 Tim. 5:10).
Wives often washed their husbands’ feet, and children washed their parents’ feet. Most people, of course, had to wash their own feet.2
So Jesus does this menial task that is well below his authority. He is God. And God washed the disciples feet that day. What an act of submission and humility.
READ John 13:6-11
6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
Peter did not want Jesus to wash his feet. It was too low of a task for his Lord. Peter, as usual, didn’t understand the significance of what Jesus was doing.
Jesus told Peter, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Jesus is using symbolism to talk about his coming death on the cross for their sins and resurrection to give them life. They needed what Jesus had to offer. We all need what Jesus has to offer.
Because of what Jesus has done for us we should desire and want to serve him. We should want to be used by him.
READ John 13:12-17
12When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
Jesus tells his disciples to go wash others feet. I don’t think he was talking about a literal application there (though some groups still practice this as a church ordinance). Jesus was talking about his children being servants. No matter what role God has placed you in his Kingdom, you are called to be a servant.
What does that look like in your life? I know that being a servant means that we put the needs of others above our own. That is not a natural thing to do.
Following Jesus demands a servant lifestyle.
How do you measure up a man in God’s Kingdom? What kind of a servant are you? I want to challenge you today:
- What is the greatest obstacle in your life to becoming the man God uses?
- What do you need to walk away from to become the man God uses?
1Adapted from “http://theplowman.org/2011/08/14/a-lesson-in-servanthood” cf. confer, compare
2Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Jn 13:5). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.