One of my favorite stories of Jesus happened on the night he was betrayed. Typically when we think of that last night our minds go to the garden where Jesus fervently prayed most of the night. Or perhaps we go to the Last Supper where Jesus installed the memorial feast we call the Lord’s Supper. Or maybe we look at his prayer recorded in John 17. For me, I like to look at the last object lesson he gave his apostles.
In John 13 Jesus gets on his hands and knees and washes the feet of his disciples. Simon Peter certainly did not care to see his Master doing such a “dirty” job. I think it is quite possible that Simon thought that feet washing was beneath the dignity of Son of God. Jesus rebuked him, and ultimately Simon Peter accepted the service rendered here by Christ. He then looked at his disciples and said, “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you (John 13:13-15).” Jesus gave the charge to his disciples to go and wash someone else’s feet.
For years I have heard people try to explain away this passage about how customs come and go. I have heard people try to explain away how Jesus shouldn’t be taken literally here. As they do this, they fail to recognize the big picture. This is not just a foot washing!
We need to be considering the emotional state Jesus must be in as he does this. Later that night, we know Jesus is sitting in the garden, sweat is pouring like blood. He cries out, let this cup pass from me. Jesus was distraught. He was heavy laden. He was hard pressed to continue the journey He was on. He was full well aware of what was about to happen. He would be betrayed by a friend, a friend whose feet he was washing. He would be handed over to be crucified. He would have to bear the sins of the world. And yet, here we find Jesus stooping at the feet of his apostles, with towel in hand washing their feet.
We need to be considering the reality of the event. This was the last meal Jesus would have with the 12. This is the last time he would be able to serve them. For in the morning he would be nailed to the cross and before the sun set, he would be gone. Jesus knew this. So, we see that he didn’t waste this last chance; this last chance to show his friends how much he loved them.
To all of this, Jesus said, go and do likewise. Yes, he offered the great explanation, “I am your master, you are my servant.” But, there is so much more here than fulfilling an obligation of service. It is about loving those whom you serve. Husbands do you love your wives? What are you doing to serve her? Wives, do you love your husbands? What are you doing to serve him? Parents do you love your children? Are you serving them? Do you serve your neighbor? Are you serving the sick? The downtrodden? The oppressed?
Do you not realize that today might be the last day you have to show your love? As you look to your wife, if you knew you were going to die the next day, what would you do? Just send her flowers? Jesus’ actions are far greater than a token gift. Service always should be!