I'm trying to picture myself at the very scenario John accounts for in the thirteenth chapter of his gospel. The disciples are sitting down to a meal with Jesus. It is just before the Passover Feast and Jesus is fully aware that he is about to leave the world to join the Father. The devil has already begun tempting Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus. Jesus gets up from the table and prepares a basin to wash the feet of his disciples.
In that time, footwashing was a practice done only by the lowest of the low. It was reserved for the servants. Imagine the confusion and astonishment the disciples must have felt when Jesus, the man they have been calling "Lord" and "Teacher" begins washing their feet. Simon Peter is clearly confused and he proclaims, "No, you shall never wash my feet." Praise God for Jesus' patience. He probably looked gently into Peter's eyes and spoke softly when he said, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."
Maybe the disciples understood that what Jesus was doing was a big deal. Maybe they kept quiet or even held their breaths as Jesus went around the table, washing each of their feet. They probably watched him closely, waiting for some explanation. When he finishes, he asks them, "Do you understand what I have done for you?" I don't think any of them gave an answer because they probably didn't understand. So Jesus explains, "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. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him."
I love that so many times Jesus begins a sentence, "I tell you the truth." He probably knew how men's minds worked. He knew that if he didn't specify that his words were truth, they might doubt them or try to find exceptions to his words.
As Jesus' disciples, we are called and commanded to follow his example: to serve others humbly, to consider others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).
Mark 10:45 - For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
While I was soaking this all in at STP this summer, I was trying to come up with ways I could serve. At the same time, there were 170 other students determined to develop lifestyles of servitude as well, which was pretty amazing. Everywhere I looked, my peers were going out of their way to put others first. They would go around at dinner and pick up people's trays and dump them. They would hold doors open for people or help them carry heavy things. They would fold other's laundry when it was dry and take out each other's trash. So of course, I felt encouraged to do the same. At work, Jannell and I would finish cleaning our rooms early, sometimes as early as 2:30 (we worked until 4pm). So with Jesus' example in mind, we headed down to another floor and helped the other housekeepers clean some rooms. We could have hidden in a check-out room and simply "chilled" for an hour and a half, thinking of it as a well-deserved break after working hard all morning and afternoon, but what would Jesus do?
I was feeling pretty selfless while I was in Florida. At work, I was thinking of all these ways I could serve others because I loved them and because I was called to do so, not because there was any benefit for me (really, there wasn't). I knew as soon as I got home, I would just clean the entire house while my mom was at work. I would vacuum, do the dishes and the laundry, mow the lawn, dust, you name it. My heart was in the right place. I wanted my mom to see that my heart was for people and it was because Jesus changed me this summer.
My first day home, I cleaned up after myself in the kitchen, loaded the dishwasher, made my bed, made her bed, made some meals. She thanked me and I said, "No problem." But it became a problem really quickly. Over the next few days, I found myself more unwilling to help out. I was lacking energy and felt like I deserved a break. I had been gone all summer, so why shouldn't I allow my mom to make meals for me?
How easily I slip back into my old ways! How easily I forget the words of Christ! The problem with me (and you) is that our default setting is selfishness. Putting others first isn't easy. Loving and expecting nothing in return is a struggle. It's just easier not to.
Jesus didn't die to make us feel good. He wants us to take risks in living differently, in our relationships, with our time, and yes, with our money.
What are some of the obstacles that make it difficult for us to put others first? Maybe fear...feelings of inadequacy...complacency....pride? We're afraid of stepping in and offering help. We're afraid...of what? Of being rejected, being told we aren't needed? We feel inadequate, that we don't have what it takes to help someone? Or are we simply too comfortable with the way things are now? It'd be too much effort to offer your time to someone; it'd be easier to keep that money in your bank account. Or is it pride -- we think we're above serving that person. We think someone else should do it.
How easily we forget Christ's example! Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likness (Philippians 2:6-7). I cannot even fathom this step of humility. God to man. King to servant. What little He asks of us!
One of the verses in John 13 that stands out to me is verse 3:
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God. (emphasis mine)You see, Jesus could wash feet because He knew where He came from and his position before God. When we find ourselves being selfish, I think it's because we forget. I think it's hard for us to peel our eyes off of ourselves because we forget that our position before Christ is blameless. Before him, we are holy and righteous. Because of our relationship with the Lord, we are lights of the world. We are healed. We are living sacrifices, rooted and established in Love, overflowing with hope, humble, unashamed, worthy footwashers.
Beloved, be confident in your identity! Who you are because of Christ empowers you to serve. I dig the lyrics in Sanctus Real's song, "Face of Love." Because I are being transformed to Christ's likeness (2 Cor. 3:18), then I can be sure that there is "no one to lost for me to love, no one to low for me to serve."