“For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”
The above scripture is John 13:15. I am going to start a new category of blog posts called Jesus’s Example. The first one is going to be Jesus washing the disciples feet, as recorded in John 13. It’s one of those Holy Week events that I just didn’t have time to squeeze in. All scriptures are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).
This particular lesson took place before the Passover was observed. Jesus and his disciples were gathered together, and had eaten supper. Jesus then takes off his outer robe, ties a towel around his waist, and begins washing the disciples feet. Washing feet was a normal part of first century culture. If you’ve ever worn sandals on the beach, or even just around your house in the summer, you know that feet get dirty quickly. Not just dirty, but ground into the skin, hard to scrub off dirt. Ordinarily it was the servants who washed the feet of your guest if you were hosting an event. There were people who washed feet, that part of the story shouldn’t be surprising. Keep the culture of the time period in mind. But Jesus was the disciples master, their rabbi. It was not his place to wash feet. Beginning in verse 12, he begins to teach his lesson. “Do you understand what I have done to you? 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 would do just as I have done to you. 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. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
Jesus had already humbled himself by leaving Heaven and taking on the likeness of man. Philippians tells us that he did not think equality with God a thing to be grasped, and was obedient even to the point of death on a cross. Washing their feet, though, was a solid, concrete, tangible illustration that the disciples could see and feel. He was their leader, and also humble servant. If we follow Christ’s example, their isn’t much that we are too good to do. I’ve mentioned this briefly before. It’s hard to make excuses with Jesus standing there saying “You know, I washed feet.” The Apostle Paul testified before heads of state, and after being imprisoned was an ambassador in chains. Any one of us would accept an invitation to the governor’s mansion, but would we accept as quickly the invitation to a trailer park? Are there people you don’t invite to church because you’re afraid they would actually come? We are instructed in scripture not to think too highly of ourselves, and given an example by Jesus that’s hard to ignore. Jesus talked to Samarian women, whores, lepers, tax collectors, and even one of the thieves hanging by him on the cross. By his own admission, he was a criminal that deserved his punishment. But Jesus told him he would spend that day with him in paradise. Is there a job in the church we’re too good to take, or a person in need of Christ that we’re better than? Not if we follow Jesus’s example.