To read through the scene in John 13 and not pause to consider the significance of why Jesus stood to wash the feet of the disciples would be a mistake. Every word from and every action by Jesus contained a lesson to learn, a mystery revealed, an act to model.
Pete helps us understand the lesson Jesus was teaching His disciples and us in the writing below.
Allowing Jesus to serve you
Let’s go back to the night before Jesus’ death. He needed to make a point to His disciples: You need to be sacrificial servants. So, He took out the cloth and the wash basin and washed the grimy feet of His followers. It was powerfully symbolic. A real attention-getter. It was the perfect conclusion to the message that He was communicating to His somewhat remedial disciples.
“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:14-17)
They got the message. The sermon was over. Or was it?
What if the foot washing wasn’t just a “lesson illustration”? What if Christ’s actions weren’t just symbolic? What if the foot washing was authentic—an extension of who Jesus really is?
The last meal that Christ shared with His disciples was filled with awkward moments—lots of them. The first one happened when they arrived. The preparations for the meal were definitely last minute. When Jesus and the guys got there and sat down, the servant who was probably supposed to wash their feet didn’t show up for work.
With no designated servant around, the disciples were left looking at each other. Who is the foot-washing guy? Peter, is that your job? And they’re all kind of pointing their fingers. Well, who is the low man on the totem pole? Who’s going to do it? Who is going to take the role of the servant? No one does.
Jesus gets up, takes off His cloak, wraps it around His waist, and starts washing their feet. Oh, what an awkward moment. I mean, the Master is not supposed to do that. He gets to Peter and, of course…
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” (John 13:8)
Was there awkward silence in the room? Absolutely. An awkward snapshot of a pervasive new principle that is revealed throughout the New Testament:
The Christian life begins with, and is sustained by, Jesus’ service to us… not by our supposed service to Him.
Pride and arrogance in our flesh will protest, but the bottom line is that our identity in Christ is dependent only on what He does and has done for us… not on what we do for Him.
In what ways do you need to allow Jesus to serve you and sustain you today?
Jesus, this seems so backward, yet I ask You to humble me. Show me my need for You today. Break through my pride and make me willing to let You serve me today, enabling me, filling me, strengthening me so that I can experience who I truly am in You. Amen.