Before leaving earth, Jesus gave his disciples one of the most important lessons of his teaching career. He did not use words. He washed their feet. Why did he do this? Why did God have John record this in the Bible for us?
He shocked his disciples. When he got to Peter, Peter said what anyone of us might think, “What are you doing?” Jesus, their Rabbi, our Savior and King, had taken the place of the lowest servant. They didn’t know what Jesus was doing, but Jesus did.
John describes how Jesus knew that “his hour had come” (John 13:1), meaning he knew it was time to die. He also knew who he was, the powerful and eternal Son of God (John 13:3). John 13:1 says Jesus loved them completely, to the end.
Today is Good Friday. This is the day we remember what happened when the most powerful being is combined with the most powerful love. It can be hard to grasp, especially when you realize that you are the object—the target of that powerful being and that powerful love. What do you do? Peter squirmed.
But gentle Jesus knew he didn’t get it yet. Jesus said, “What I’m doing you don’t understand now, but afterward you will know” (John 13:7).
You and I live afterward, almost 2,000 years later. On this Good Friday, take a moment to understand what Jesus was doing. First, the King of the Universe became the lowest servant. He did the job no one wanted to do. And he went lower, to the place of a criminal on a cross. That place is mine and yours. We deserve death.
Second, Jesus became a living parable. In Luke 22, at the Last Supper, the disciples argued which of them would be greatest in the kingdom. 2,000 years later, are we much different? The church still has disciples wanting their voice to be heard, who compete for attention, who want to be accepted. We are no different.
“…but afterward you will know" (John 13:7). Jesus is still gentle today. We live in that “afterward” time, after the cross and resurrection. While we have been growing in the knowledge of Jesus, let us also grow in his grace (2 Peter. 3:18). The humility of Jesus was rooted in his relationship with his Father. He became the lowest servant because his heart said, “your will be done, not mine.” This is the battle each of us face.
Humility grows only out of your relationship with the Father. That relationship begins with Jesus. And what is humility? It has often been said humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is not thinking of yourself at all. This statement explodes in my mind and raises the bar to where Jesus puts it. Philippians 2:3 rephrases this for us: “me last, others first.” Jesus has opened the way to humility for us. He is both the example of humility, and the one who washes away the stain of my selfishness and pride.
“Lord, I have sinned against you. I keep making my days about me. Thank you, Jesus, for taking my cross, for taking my sin and shame. You have washed my sins away. Now help me, I pray, to walk in your footsteps. Help me to say, your will be done, not mine. Thank you for loving us, Lord, and help me to love you more. Amen.”