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.
John 13:12-15 (NIV)
Jesus had been eating a meal with his disciples when he got up, took off his outer clothes, and set about washing the disciples’ feet. We are not told how each individual reacted to what Jesus was doing, but we are told that Peter didn’t like the idea and said so to Jesus. However, he did give in and have his feet washed.
When Jesus returned to his place he asked the disciples: Do you understand what I have done for you? Notice that he didn’t ask them about what he had done ‘to’ them, but what he had done ‘for’ them. Jesus is wanting the disciples to understand a deeper meaning that went beyond the obvious physical act of washing their feet.
In washing the disciples’ feet Jesus wanted them to learn two important lessons about being a servant and showing humility. These are:
- that serving others takes real humility, as it requires us to put the needs of others before our own;
- that allowing others to serve us can be just as difficult as serving them.
Both of these can be a problem if we allow pride to get in the way. Firstly, pride can prevent us being willing to be a servant, as we can think too highly of ourselves. Secondly, pride can stop us being served by others, primarily as we think we don’t need the help and assistance of other people. Don’t forget that the lesson of servanthood and humility goes both ways. If we are unwilling to let someone serve us, we have effectively deprived them of the learning opportunity it gives them.
Be open to serving others, as well as letting others serve you.
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