This week’s Gospel reading comes from John 13-15:25. This reading is full of huge theological concepts, but I want to focus on one that is seemingly simple, yet so often left undone; serving others. “Serve Faithfully” is one of our Firstfruits (we’ll discuss this on Sunday), and it’s one that is extremely important. Jesus never teaches us to do something that he hasn’t done, so he gives us an example of service.
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. (Jn 13:3–5)
Jesus already knew that Judas was going to betray him, yet he dined with him and then washes his feet. In our cultural context this is quite strange, and misunderstood. But in first century Palestine, foot washing was common practice as sandals were the common footwear, and roads were rarely paved. The custom is found all throughout the Old Testament, yet we see very few examples of someone washing someone else’s feet (see 1 Sam. 25:41, Luke 7:44, 1 Tim.5:10). The custom was to provide water for people to wash their own feet, but Jesus goes far beyond that custom and serves his disciples humbly by washing their filthy feet.
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. (Jn 13:12–17)
Jesus is very clear that his followers should continue this practice of serving one another. It seems that the early church continued the literal practice of washing each others feet (1 Tim. 5:10), but I believe Jesus is using this extreme example to show us just how far he expects us to go in serving one another.
What does foot washing look like in our society? What is a practice so humbling, yet so significant in our culture that Christians ought to be doing for one another to show a Christ-like heart? I honestly don’t know, but I’m not going to stop looking. Followers of Christ should seek to serve one another in humility. We should look for ways to be “washing the feet of the Lord’s people.” This will look different for everyone, but everyone should be doing something.
Bottom line: We are called to live like Christ. He set us an example of humble service to follow. So what are you doing to serve your brothers and sisters in Christ? If you aren’t doing anything, then it’s time to follow your Lord’s example and serve one another.