The life, testimony, ministry, and teachings of one Jesus from Nazareth
Chapters thirteen through seventeen of John are known as the Upper Room Discourse and are the recorded words of Christ the night before His arrest. As the shadow of Calvary loomed in front of Him, Jesus spent the night teaching, encouraging, and praying for His disciples, both the twelve with Him and those in the future—us. However, before the night began, our Savior did something quite unexpected…
The setting was the night of Passover in a rented upper room. Before sitting down to eat, Jesus took a towel and a basin of water and began washing the disciples’ feet. Now in our culture, this sounds like a rather odd yet inconsequential thing to do, but back in biblical times it was an act of servitude.
The common footwear of the era was sandals, rain or shine, mix that with dirt roads and by the end of the day one ends up with really dirty, dusty feet. So the first thing one did when entering a house was allow a servant to wash your feet. This duty fell to the lowest servant of the house and was a job looked upon with humility and disgust. And I don’t blame them! Who wants to touch, let alone wash, someone else’s filthy feet?! But Jesus didn’t balk at the task. The disciples couldn’t afford a servant, so there was no one else to do the job. Therefore, Jesus stepped up to the plate and showed that in order to be a true leader, one must be a humble servant.
Now there was one in the room that night that had a different opinion. Peter, the out-spoken one, vehemently declared when Jesus approached that “You shall never wash my feet.” But why was Peter so reluctant? Let’s go back to what we just learned, foot washing was the job of the lowliest servant in the house and Peter’s view of Jesus was that of the promised Messiah, one who would make all of Israel’s wrongs right. In his mind’s eye, Jesus was a king on his way to reclaim his father David’s throne, and thus, Peter couldn’t imagine allowing him to perform such an act of servitude. How quickly Peter was corrected! Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords, but He’s also the Servant of all. He is deserving of all honor and worship, yet He also wants us to let Him serve us by doing the heart work needed in each of our lives.
So the question is…will we be like Peter who was reluctant to let Jesus wash his feet because he felt that is a task too menial for his Lord to perform? Or will we allow our Lord to wash our feet and perform the task in us that needs to be done to make us more like Him? And are we willing to follow our Savior’s example of humble service, going out and washing one another’s feet, serving in even the lowliest of positions, and joyfully doing the most menial of jobs?
For while Jesus longs to serve us, He also calls us to, in turn, serve others. Therefore, let us become people who are known not by who we are, but by whom we serve.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master…”