Loving Father, may I have the power to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18-19).
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.
Poet Edgar Guest likely spoke for many when he said he would rather see a sermon than hear one any day. Here in the Upper Room we see a mighty sermon as Jesus washes dirty feet, even the feet of the one about to betray Him. Over the course of the night Jesus will show that there is more going on here than washing feet. His foot washing is an “acted parable of the Lord’s humiliation unto death.” (George Beasley-Murray, Commentary on John) Jesus rising from the table, laying aside His outer garment and washing feet foreshadows what He will do on the cross in cleansing us from all sin. As Jesus approached Jerusalem for the last time He explained His Father’s will for Him: “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Jesus does not go to the cross a broken, helpless victim, but goes as the Sovereign One in control of all things. King Herod, Governor Pilate, religious leaders, and soldiers are bit players in God’s redemption story. Today’s Scripture notes Jesus’ total security in who He is, knowing “the Father had given all things into his hand, and that he had come from God and was going to God.” Jesus knew His dignity, He knew His identity, and He knew His destiny. And what does Jesus do? He serves! What a sermon Jesus is showing us! This is infinite love and submission! Supreme authority taking on supreme humility!
The Gospel of Luke reports what has been happening behind the scenes with the disciples: “A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest” (Luke 22:24). They were ready to grab for a throne, but not a towel! Their insecurities would not permit them to wash another’s feet.
Perhaps the most profound commentary on Jesus’ acted sermon can be found in the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:5-8. Ponder Paul’s words as translated by Eugene Peterson in The Message:
“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.”
Yes! As followers of Jesus we can think of ourselves in the way Jesus thought of Himself: a humble servant! We waste no time wondering who is the greatest. We have incredible dignity belonging to Jesus. We know who we are. We have nothing to prove. Secured in Jesus’ love, He frees us to pick up a towel and serve.
- Jesus’ disciples argued about who was the greatest among them. Do Iever think about my greatness, or, am I ever jealous of another’s?
- How might knowing the dignity I have in belonging to Jesus free me to bea servant to someone today?
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly, day by day.
Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)