Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it round his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped round him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterwards you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
Once a year at Moody, on Maundy Thursday, the professors and staff of Moody wash the students’ feet. I have done this twice, but other years I have missed it. It starts as an embarrassment to me. It is not embarrassing because it is an act of servitude, it is embarrassing because it is an act of intimacy. I feel unworthy to have my students allow me to wash their feet. They reveal a part of themselves that is most often hidden and I wash it. After a few sets of feet, though, the embarrassment wears off and I enjoy just washing people’s feet.
In ancient days, though, the issue was different. The feet were constantly exposed to the elements and the dust. The feet would be dirty and tired. The lowest servant would have the job of cleaning and refreshing the guests’ feet. Jesus takes that role and so he exemplifies servant leadership. He puts his positional power and status to one side and communicates the power of service. To serve one another, we need to see what each other need. We need to meet those needs by replacing our desires to protect ourselves and control our environment with a desire to love God and others and potentially sacrifice ourselves to serve them.
Today you will probably not have a chance to wash anyone’s feet. I get to wash my children’s feet in the bath, but in general it doesn’t come up. However, holding the door open for someone, letting someone cut in in traffic, and giving up a seat on the ‘L’ are ways that we can start to put our own selves to one side. Once we are faithful in the little things the larger sacrifices might come more easily.
- Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
- Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
- Where there is injury, pardon;
- Where there is discord, harmony;
- Where there is error, truth;
- Where there is doubt, faith;
- Where there is despair, hope;
- Where there is darkness, light;
- And where there is sadness, joy.
- O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
- To be consoled as to console;
- To be understood as to understand;
- To be loved as to love.
- For it is in giving that we receive;
- It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
- And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
- What does Jesus do for his disciples?
- Why does Peter object?
- Why is Judas highlighted?
- How has Jesus washed your feet?
- How will you lead the way in service of others today?