In the previous post, we noted how Jesus’ act of washing the disciples’ feet was a living demonstration of love in action. Jesus didn’t do it out of concern for their personal hygiene, but for the state of their souls, especially with regard to how they would carry on after his return to the Father.
Thus, once he had washed all their feet (including the feet of Judas, his betrayer!), put on his robes, and returned to his seat, Jesus interpreted his actions to them:
Do you know what I’ve done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you speak correctly, because I am. If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do. I assure you, servants aren’t greater than their master, nor are those who are sent greater than the one who sent them. Since you know these things, you will be happy if you do them. (John 13:12-17, CEB)
The disciples have no problem understanding that “servants aren’t greater than their master.” And they have no problem calling Jesus their master, their teacher, their Lord.
The shocker comes with Jesus’ answer to the implied question: What kind of Lord do you think I am? Here, we could quote again Jesus’ words from the gospel of Luke, as he corrected the disciples for arguing amongst themselves about who was the greatest: “But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).
The disciples do not yet understand that Jesus’ time with them on earth is short, nor that they must carry on his mission without him. He is giving them a pattern to follow, a model of humble service, undertaken in love. And if they do this, if they remember the humility of their Lord, they will be “happy” — not in the sense that they will necessaraily enjoy each act of service, but in the sense that through such service they will find their blessedness, the depth of what it means to be created in God’s image.
I don’t often wear sandals, and I don’t walk dirt roads. I don’t need someone to wash my feet before supper, nor would I expect to wash someone else’s. But here’s the question: in what way, in our current relationships, might we be called to love in action, to the kind of humble service Jesus has already demonstrated?