Read This Week: John 13
Jesus 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 disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel wrapped around him. After washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you. – John 13:4-5; 12-15 NIV
Of the many things He was throughout his ministry, Jesus was most certainly a servant leader. He frequently demonstrated remarkable humility and meekness for His followers and us to emulate and do likewise. Jesus had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that He had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all (Phil. 2:6). Jesus was God, yet He never flaunted or leveraged that divine privilege; in fact, He went out of his way to be an example of servanthood to those from every walk of life.
One of the most famous and compelling examples of Jesus’ sacrificial love and service to others occurs in His final moments with the disciples when He washes their feet at the Last Supper. All four Gospels describe the events of this night, but only John 13 includes the powerful imagery of the foot washing. This passage tells us that Jesus gets up from the table without speaking and begins to wash the dirty feet of his disciples. A lowly, humbling act for anyone, much less the Savior who enjoyed sovereignty over all the earth.
Christ demonstrates the coming sacrifice of His body and blood on the cross with the bread and wine and then displays the transcendent humility it would take to offer himself up. The fact that this was a final moment of fellowship with His closest followers and that He had total authority makes this even more significant. Jesus wanted this lesson of service, grace, and love to be a lasting memory and a sustaining force in their lives and ministries. He says in verse 14:
Now that I have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you.
God wants this for us too. He desires us to be undergirded with humility and grace and postured with a servant’s heart. Following His example, we should not consider ourselves better than anyone or above any act of service that would bless another. It takes tremendous self-denial to bend down and wash another person’s feet. It is so stark in its servility that it provides a gleaming illustration of what should embody a Christ follower’s life in the world. We are foot washers, not glory seekers.
This compassion, attitude, and behavior are who we should be and how we should behave among people. We should be ready to love them in such a way that we can bend down and serve at the greatest levels of self-sacrifice. It is how they will know we follow Christ. Jesus says in verses 34-35: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.