Waters of Transformation
"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many …" Mark 14:24 (NIV)
Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet (John 13:1-17)
Foot washing was a hygienic necessity in Jesus’ day. Imagine traveling everywhere on foot—either barefoot or sandaled. Imagine walking all day along dusty roads and dirt paths shared with animals. By the time you reached your destination, your feet would have accumulated layers upon layers of grime.
In a world where honor was paramount, foot washing was also an important act of hospitality. Failure to wash a visitor’s feet—or to offer water so they could wash their own feet—signaled grave disrespect. Jesus had firsthand experience of this, having been slighted in this way by a Pharisee who had invited Him to dinner (Luke 7:36-50).
Typically, foot washing was a job for the lowliest servant or slave. This arrangement reinforced the established social order: servants wash their master’s feet, not the other way around.
When Jesus gathered with the disciples for one last meal, He did the unthinkable. He took the role of a servant upon Himself—pouring water into a basin, kneeling before each dumbstruck disciple in turn, and cleaning the grime from their feet.
If the shock of seeing their teacher debase Himself wasn’t enough, Jesus drove the point home by telling the disciples they were to follow His example by washing one another’s feet. This was the same group who liked to argue about who was the greatest (Luke 9:46-48; Mark 10:35-45). Jesus demonstrated another way.
A few decades later, the apostle Paul echoed this call, urging Christians to emulate Jesus’ servant attitude. “In humility value others above yourselves,” he wrote to the Philippians (2:3).
With nothing more than a basin of water and a towel, Jesus taught an unforgettable lesson about living water. When He invites us to come and drink, it’s not just so we can live forever. It’s so we can live transformed—right here and now. Water changes the way we live; it transforms us into servants who reflect Jesus’ unconditional love.
“The Village Will Become a Wonderful Place"
To see how water can transform an entire community, look no further than the Zambian village of Haalumba. Because of World Vision’s work to provide clean water, improved sanitation, and hygiene education, disease is down and kids are in school—kids like Clara, 12, the girl we met in week 2.
Another unmistakable sign of transformation is the way community members are uniting to serve one another.
When a new borehole is drilled, it belongs to the community. World Vision trains pumpminders who are chosen by their communities. The pumpminder maintains each well, ensuring it provides a steady supply of clean water for decades. In Haalumba, the pumpminder is 58-year-old Enock. In addition to maintaining existing wells, Enock has built twelve new boreholes with World Vision—boreholes that are designed to last. “These boreholes never break down,” he says with pride.
Enock does all of this as a volunteer. “I am a person of the people,” he says. “I am doing this work to save the community.”
This Christ-like attitude is also evident elsewhere in Haalumba. It can be seen in the way young men like Timmy, 14, are changing their attitudes about gender. “I used to think it was a girl’s job to fetch water and wash dishes,” Timmy says.
A new borehole brought a whole new mindset for the teenager. “I help my mother in the garden,” he says. “I don’t think fetching water is a girl’s job. I will help my wife fetch water.”
Timmy’s example hasn’t gone unnoticed. “It amazes me that he fetches water,” says Clara—who used to miss school because of her dangerous daily trek to collect dirty water, but is now near the top of her class.
“Because of the borehole nearby, more boys are willing to fetch water,” observes Winnie, a member of Haalumba’s borehole management committee. She hopes it doesn’t stop there. “In the future, [boys and girls] may be equal,” she says hopefully.
Clean water, offered in Jesus’ name, has brought a sense of servanthood and common purpose to Haalumba. “The village will become a wonderful place,” Clara says confidently. “No one will suffer from lack of water anymore.”
Spend time by yourself or with your small group reflecting on this week’s content, using the following discussion questions:
- Put yourself in the disciples’ shoes (or sandals). How would you react if Jesus knelt in front of you and began washing your dirty feet? Would you feel humbled? Grateful? Uncomfortable?
- A single act of service can often be the catalyst for a greater sense of harmony or unity. What are some practical ways you can serve others in order to strengthen your community?
- Boys in Haalumba used to think fetching water was girls’ work. In what ways do we perpetuate harmful stereotypes about women in our own society?
- Have you ever been inspired to serve by a selfless act from someone else? What was it?
Take a few moments each day to meditate on the following Scripture passages:
Monday: Genesis 18:1-12
Abraham welcomes three mysterious visitors, providing water for them to wash their feet. The encounter forever changes his life.
Tuesday: Ezekiel 36:24-27
God promises to restore His wayward people, cleansing them with water.
Wednesday: Romans 12:1-8
Paul reminds Christians that we are part of a larger body, and we are called to serve the whole community.
Thursday: 1 Corinthians 3:5-9
Using the analogy of planting and watering a seed, Paul describes how people should work together in common service for the benefit of all.
Friday: Philippians 2:1-11
Paul echoes Jesus’ call to serve, urging readers to think first about the needs of others.
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