But you must also remember that it is most likely that the streets where they walked were also the town sewer and drainage system. I don’t know about you, but in my mind, feet are not great in the best circumstances. The custom of the servants in the house washing the feet of the guests would have been a literally dirty job on that day!
With that imagery in mind, let’s take a look at John 13:1-17. I have always admired this passage in describing how the Lord chose to humble Himself and wash the disciples’ feet. But when I remove my Westernized mindset and realize what a filthy job this would have been, I am even more amazed at the example the Lord set for us.
Remember that John tells us that Jesus knew what was coming. His plate was full! He was facing the greatest suffering known to man. Verse 1 tells us that even with all that on His mind, He was full of love for His disciples. He served them out of the purest form of love possible. John 13:4 records an interesting phrase – “he riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments… [emphasis mine].” When I read this phrase, my mind went to Philippians 2:7-8. Paul records a description of the humility of Christ here that tells us that He willingly laid aside His deity in order to serve us! What a perfect example! I am often unwilling to set aside my schedule or my plans or my own selfish desires for the good of other people. Jesus laid aside what was rightfully His. He “took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7). He did this so He could die for you and me!
But He didn’t stop there. He finished the job in John 13 and washed the filth off the feet of the disciples. He performed the task of the lowest servant in the house. I think if it were me, I would have found some reason that someone else needed to do that job. But not our Lord! We often give Peter a hard time for his response, but I think if we are honest with ourselves, we would have responded much as he did. If this washing was what was necessary, why stop at my feet? Jesus explained to Peter that it wasn’t the cleansing that held the lesson. It was the humility necessary in serving others.
Then He sweetly called the disciples to Himself so He could teach them clearly the lesson He wanted them to learn. John 13:13-14 explain this lesson well – “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Jesus goes on to say that the servant and the master are equal. This would have been a mind-blowing explanation to the disciples. Servants were part of the culture, but what Jesus was illustrating was that serving others was the greatest of all actions!
So how do we follow Jesus’ example in this way today? Should we call our local contractor to install foot washing stations in the entries to our homes? I don’t think that is the proper application. But I do think we have to rework some of our thinking in ministering to other people.
Remember that Judas was among the ones who had their feet washed. The Lord knew what Judas was and what he would do, but He still served him. Maybe it’s a difficult person who lives near you or who always wants your attention at church.
I don’t know all the possible scenarios, but what I do know is that Jesus wants us to follow His example by serving even the hardest or “dirtiest feet” among us with humility motivated by love. We have the ultimate example of what Christ did here in John 13. How can you follow His example TODAY? Don’t let the “dirt” scare you away! Serve others like Jesus did!
So, how are you following Jesus’ example of service today?
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