May I wash your feet?
That was Jesus’ question. It’s a strange request in our culture. Well into the awkward range (although that doesn’t stop some from practicing this tradition today). What’s really going on here?
In this well-known account of Jesus, (in John 13) he provides the ultimate example of what has been named “servant leadership.” Servant leadership has found a place in our cultural vocabulary. But it’s easier to find a book about it than to find a practitioner of it. Why is that? I suspect it’s because we’ve missed out on what this remarkable incident is really about.
As we explored last Sunday, it’s more than simply an object lesson in humility. (Ironically humility was hardly considered a virtue at all until Jesus MADE it one.) This scene is really about a deeper truth or truths being practiced and proclaimed. When Jesus stooped to wash the dirty feet of his prestige-seeking disciples, he drove home three critical truths:
- They had much more value than anyone else had imagined. They were valuable enough in the eyes of their Heavenly Father that he would commission his son to mount a rescue mission for them, even while they continued to bicker about which of them was the greatest.
- They had a much deeper need of rescue than they could imagine. The footwashing ceremony was a prequel to the ultimate cleansing which Jesus would accomplish only hours later as he went to the cross on their behalf. (Hebrews 10:14)
- They had a much grander calling than they could have imagined. Jesus footwashing was concluded with this instruction, “Now you go do for others what you’ve seen me do for you.” (paraphrase of John 13:15)
Who would have thought that a simple act of service would have such profound implications? Well, Jesus would. That’s why he washed their feet. And that’s why he “washed” yours, too.
- Do you believe you have that much value?
- Do you believe you have that much need for God’s rescue and restoration?
- Do you believe you have that grand a calling on your life?
If you didn’t answer “yes” to all three of these, then practicing servant leadership is going to be very, very challenging. Because I promise you that the people God brings into your life and asks you to “lead as a servant” are going to bother you, challenge you, annoy you, and sometimes resist you.
But if you can understand and embrace these truths, you’re on your way to a magnificent calling and life. If you can believe that you have THAT much value to God (regardless of what others say). If you can believe that you have THAT much need for God to rescue you (which by the way puts you in good company with those God asks you to serve). If you can believe that you have THAT grand of a calling, then you’re able to “wash one another’s feet.” You’re on your way to igniting the H.O.P.E of Christ. Starting right now.