Jesus made Himself nothing and modeled humility for us. He commands us to do the same out of love for Him and others.
John 13:1-17, 31-35
This was not their first Passover Feast, but it would be their last with the Master. The disciples didn’t know that, though, when they gathered in the upper room for the meal. The seder reminded them of the lambs’ blood painted on their ancestors’ doorposts. The presence of that blood had saved the Jews from the death angel (Ex. 12:23 nlt) and convinced Pharaoh to let them leave Egypt and slavery. The disciples didn’t understand that their Rabbi was the sacrificial Lamb whose blood would soon be painted across their hearts. His blood would forever free them and us from slavery to sin and death.
As the meal was being served, Jesus stood up. All eyes followed Him as He took off His outer clothing and wrapped a towel around His waist. The men wondered what He was doing but didn’t dare ask. After filling a bowl with water, the Lord kneeled and began to wash the first disciple’s feet. Then He moved to the next one and the next.
Had Jesus lost His mind? They exchanged nervous glances and squirmed as their Master’s hands touched their feet. How could He debase Himself with such an intimate, lowly act? They’d never dream of doing such a thing. Please don’t, they wanted to say. Let a servant do this.
Peter, always the spokesman, tried to stop Him. Jesus assured him that someday he’d understand, but for now, the washing must be allowed. In that case, do my hands and head, too, Peter said. But Jesus pointed out that only his feet needed washing, since he had bathed already for the feast.
Jesus knew, of course, that one of these friends wasn’t clean. For three years, Judas had seen Jesus up close, serving, teaching, loving. But despite the privilege of witnessing all this firsthand, Judas had his own agenda and priorities. So with feet freshly washed by the hands of God, the betrayer would soon lead soldiers and religious officials to where they could arrest Him.
Jesus washed the disciples’ feet in order to set an example of love and service. When He said that disciples are not above their Master, He also had us in mind. With no earthly or cosmic reason to be humble, Jesus made Himself nothing and modeled humility for us. He commands us to do the same out of love for Him and others.
News like that can be as hard to swallow as the bitter herbs of the seder. Faced with a roomful of feet that need washing, how eager are we to take up our towels? Serving for us might mean driving an elderly friend to appointments, visiting regularly with the sick, helping a single mom with her children or home repairs. This Easter, may we reach out to others with eager hands and hearts washed clean by the blood of the Master.
Written by LeAnne Benfield Martin