Day 38 – Jesus Washes the Disciples Feet: His Example of Service

John 13:1–20

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 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. Very truly I tell you, 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. “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’ “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

Jesus knew that his hour had come.  It was Thursday evening and he had very little time before he would be arrested and crucified.  Yet, Jesus portrays his great love for his followers in this scene of the foot washing.   “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (v.1)  Jesus is that very good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, demonstrating how His love is greater than any love found in this world. 

Because of Jesus’ great love for his disciples, he wanted to teach them what it meant to be his followers.  Jesus was the Son of God, fully divine, and deserved to be served and worshipped. And yet, instead of being served, the Son of God did not disdain performing the most menial task of a slave: washing feet.  Jesus wanted his disciples to follow his example and be joyful in serving others rather than aspiring to be served.

Today, the world teaches us that we find happiness when we are served.   If we are in high places of authority, the world’s view is that we should expect to be served.  But Christ tells us otherwise.  He tells us that if we are truly his followers, we will have the mindset of a servant in our workplace, church, and community.  Whether we are managers, teachers, moms, dads, elders or pastors, we need to humbly serve others instead of lording over those subjected to us.  We need to check the motivations of our hearts, as well as our actions.

Because Christ has cleansed us completely, we have the power of the Holy Spirit to live in humility.  In verse 10, Jesus said to Peter, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean.”  Those like Judas cannot possibly follow in Christ’s footsteps, but His sheep are different.   Christ laid down his life for His sheep and made them completely clean, justified.  Let us not live like Judas who was self-seeking, prideful, and greedy. Instead, if we believe we are “completely clean,” let us humbly rely on Christ’s power to receive daily cleansing and forgiveness, as if Jesus is washing our feet.  May we gladly serve others in humility and live a Spirit-filled life, contrary to what our sinful nature and the world tells us. Let us hold onto the truth of Jesus Christ and his ultimate sacrifice on the cross.  

Note: Each day’s devotional is written by a different member of the GRC family.