Daily Devotional: John 13:1–17
1 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.
2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 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; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 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.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 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.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 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. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Jn 13:1–17.
As a culture, we instinctively give weight and value to last meals and last words.
Everyone always comments about how being on death’s doorstep lends a perspective that is unparalleled in one’s life. No one ever spends that time wishing they had put in more hours at work — everyone’s instinct is to say that they wish they had spent more time being connected with their loved ones, and that they had pursued what would have honestly given them joy.
And so, it is bewildering, fascinating, and awe-inspiringly-makes-you-tremble-at-the-reading-of-these-words, that as Jesus faced His last hour, He didn’t ask for the surf and turf special. He didn’t ask anybody to listen to his regrets, to cleanse his conscience.
What His deathbed-perspective gave Him was the desire to visibly give Himself away, to humble Himself, to embrace the low position, to show that “Lord and Teacher” means the first to bend over to serve.
This is tricky.
This is tricky because I fully believe that, just as Jesus demonstrated here, higher position and authority means going lower to serve others.
This is tricky because I also have seen countless leaders use this to browbeat their followers into jumping through hoops to “serve” the “leader” so that the follower can get their promotion.
No no no no no no.
Love sees that there isn’t a hierarchy in terms of who gets to boss others around, and who’s forced to carry the load. Love eagerly searches out opportunities to give because it’s rooted in the economy of heaven, that it’s more blessed to give than to receive, that it’s better to give yourself away than to grasp for yourself.
Love doesn’t do things for an exchange. Love simply gives and does. It doesn’t force others to jump when you say jump, it instead finds it’s place emptying itself out like Jesus in Philippians 2, but at the same time holds value and truth boundaries, like Jesus does with Peter, where He corrects Peter’s zeal and doesn’t simply conform to what Peter would think would be an amazing display of love.
So, before you take up His example, stay a little while where you are today.
Let Him come, and in the silence and stillness, wash your feet again.
He doesn’t begrudge you for needing to be served once again. It’s what He wanted most on His deathbed.
It’s Jesus’ deepest joy to serve and love you.