(John 13:12-15) 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.
Feet can be very gross. Unless you have just been for a pedicure, your feet are probably kind of rough and maybe even sweaty and stinky. I don’t know of anyone, beyond maybe a person with a weird hang-up with feet, who would just think, “Man, I really want to get on my knees and scrub those dirty feet!” It’s an awkward, uncomfortable, and undesirable thing to think of doing! Well, serving often means doing the stuff that no one else wants to do. It is having the humility to go beyond your talents and the things you’re comfortable with, and just doing what needs to be done. Jesus was a gifted teacher and somewhat of a celebrity…everyone knew who he was. To his disciples, he was Teacher and Lord — their rabbi. Jesus would never have been asked to wash their feet! No one had to ask, because he selflessly volunteered. He was doing what all good teachers understand is necessary — he was modeling the desired behavior. Did Jesus mean that we should all literally get down and wash one another’s feet? Well, yes and no. Yes — because sometimes an old-fashioned foot washing can be a symbolic and spiritual way to show humility and love toward someone else, just as Christ did when he washed the feet of his disciples. No — because Jesus wasn’t just modeling physical behavior. He was showing his disciples (and ultimately us) what it means to humble and to have the heart of a servant.
Galatians 5:13 says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Because of the love and the sacrificial blood of Christ, we have been set free. When we use that freedom to serve our own flesh, we are squandering the priceless and precious blood that was shed — the blood that paid the price for our freedom. Serving others takes on many different shapes, colors and sizes. It changes and shifts as we grow and mature in the Lord. Sometimes it looks like ugly feet waiting to be scrubbed (you know…like changing poopy diapers and rocking crying babies in the nursery on Sunday…like scrubbing church toilets and floors…like pulling weeds and stacking chairs…), and sometimes it looks like that thing you’ve always wanted to do (you know…that thing you know you’re good at…that thing you feel called to do). I’ll be honest, there’s a lot of the dirty feet…and more dirty feet means more hands are needed to wash them! Literally, figuratively…either way, there’s work to be done. If Jesus Christ — Savior of the world, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Alpha and Omega — could get down on his knees and wash the dirty feet of his followers…if he could suffer humiliation and pain like nothing we have ever known…then surely there is nothing that any of us is above doing when it comes to serving one another. We are the church…we are family…brothers and sisters in Christ…joint heirs with Jesus. It takes a village, friends. When we come together in love, humility, and with a spirit of commitment and purpose, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, it is by You and through You that we are free. May we never waste that freedom on selfish motivations. Instead, help us to find joy in serving…however YOU see fit for us to do so. Give us willing hearts, and humble spirits, so that we reflect You in all that we do. Amen.