Lenten Reader -- Day 24
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 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. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. 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. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:1-17)
Jesus of Nazareth had gained quite a following. People were looking for him to do something great, lead an uprising, fight for a new kingdom, a new position, more power. But he rejected the popular idea of greatness in order to introduce God’s idea of it.
No one, before or since, has ever embodied this virtue better than Jesus did, and there is no time he more clearly modeled it than on the night prior to his crucifixion.
You might remember that the disciples got into a little scuffle after dinner about which one of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24). Apparently, the lesson Jesus had doled out to the Pharisees six months before about sitting in the lowest positions, rather than elbowing their way to the top, had been forgotten (Luke 14:7). Luke gives us a straightforward account of Jesus’ verbal response to those disciples: “The least among you will be the greatest.”
But here we have his visual response, a parable about service, performed by the greatest man who ever lived.
When no servant was available to wash their feet, Jesus assumed the role. The Master became a servant. The Most High got down on his knees. Jesus horrified his own disciples by demonstrating to them the divine perspective, which turned their entire social order upside down. And then he commanded them to do the same.
In one stunning act, Jesus demonstrated that, in the kingdom of God, service is not the path to greatness; service is greatness.
Lord God, just as your beloved Son came into the world to serve others and not be served himself, I, too, want to be a servant. The more I grasp my true identity and the dignity of my station as your beloved child, the more free I become to serve others even when they do not reciprocate, and the less I am in the bondage of being defined by the opinions and expectations others have of me. I want you to define me so I can be liberated. I want to know who I am in Christ so I have nothing to prove. I invite your Holy Spirit to make it possible for me to live an other-centered lifestyle. Teach me how to develop a vision for what you are doing in the lives of others, and give me the joy of helping them mature and reach their potential. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.