In John 13 you see Jesus serving his disciples in a way that is almost embarrassing and outrageous. They were having dinner and the servant’s duty would be to wash everyone’s feet as they sat at the table. When there is no servant someone else must take this lowly responsibility. This task was even too lowly for the disciples of Jewish leaders to do, so Jesus’ followers felt no responsibility in doing this task.
The question is why Jesus would do this? Well the disciples earlier in his ministry were worried about sitting on Jesus left and right in his kingdom and Jesus rebuked them saying in Mark 10:43-44, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” Jesus taught this lesson to them, but they still have not fully grasped it.
They were not convinced of this teaching and needed a visible and practical demonstration of what Jesus’s teaching looked like in action. They certainly got it. Jesus got out of his chair and tied a rag to his waist, poured water into a bowl, and began to wash his disciples feet. They all sat there stunned, not knowing what to say, and feeling embarrassed that they did not do it before he did.
They were humbled by the presence of the one they consider to be the Lord humbly serving them in a task, that they perceived to be lower than them. If people consider a man great and this man does a service that these people who think so highly of him deem as too low for even themselves, it causes them to rethink how they view themselves. The act of humility here by Jesus was an example to follow, but also was for the disciples a humbling realization of how prideful they really are.
The most shocking insight I saw here was how this act by Jesus brought a command not just an example. Jesus the one who they consider not just their teacher but also their Lord (Jn. 13:13) was humbling himself in the service of his followers and then tells them this is an example for them to follow in how they treat each other (Jn. 13:14-15). One of the greatest ways pride presents itself is by refusing to take the lower role in situations, while Jesus here the Lord of Lords and King of kings has just done that. Now that Jesus has done that by washing the feet of his disciples there is every reason for why they also should wash one another’s feet, and no conceivable reason for refusing to do so. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and if he did, then what is our reason for why we shouldn’t do the same?
Now washing the feet of others is not the specific message on what we should be doing as Christians to serve one another, but what Jesus is teaching to us is that we must love others by serving them in some of the lowliest ways we can think of. If that means handing out food at cafeterias for homeless, or just getting people coffee when they are studying. I don’t know what it looks like for each person, but we should not just wait for a chance to serve people to come our way. We must be seeking out opportunities to serve and love the people around us, even if it will hurt our prides and embarrass us in the process.
We are called to serve the brothers and sisters in our life in a way that is loving and sacrificial, and we must seek out these opportunities, just as Jesus did in this situation. If Jesus didn’t wash their feet they would have been fine and no one would have been bothered that no one did this task. Serving may not be expected of you in circumstance by the people their, just as the disciples didn’t expect this type of service from Jesus, but that doesn’t change how you are expect by God to do in the love for his people. We must go out of our way to serve people with our actions towards them. I pray I continue to grow in a heart that desires to serve the people I love in my life like Christ did.