Most Christians know the story of how Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, humbled Himself to serve His disciples. We know how He rose from the table, removed his clothes, girded a towel around His waist, and washed the nastiest part of His friend’s bodies…their feet. If we took a man-on-the-street quiz about this story my guess is that most would be able to reconstruct it in satisfactory detail without much trouble…but the most shocking aspect of this event was not what Christ did but why He did it. Do you remember what prompted Christ to humble Himself this way? Surely, this was one of the greatest feats of love. But why did He do it?
Think with me: what do you think would prompt such an act of love? Was it His affection for the men themselves? A selfish desire to rid the room of that all too familiar locker room must? Was it a command from the Father that caused Him to stoop and serve? All of these might be fine reasons but none of them are listed in the text. John tells us that before Christ embraced the task of the lowliest slave He drew to mind a few things about Himself.
In a rather complicated grammatical sentence John tells us the following:
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper.”John 13:3-4a
The meat and bones of this sentence is that “Jesus…rose from supper” and that is often all we see in these verses. But packed in between the Subject and His action is a whole list of things that He drew to mind (knew) which prompted the pedicure.
- The Father had given all things into His hands…Jesus knew He had Divine Sovereign Authority over the universe.
- He had come from God…Jesus knew that He was the Eternal Word made flesh for the salvation of the world. The climax of God’s redeeming and revelatory interactions with sinful man.
- He was going back to God…Jesus knew that, in a matter of hours, he would ascend into heaven and sit at the right hand of the Majesty on High.
Can you make the connection between Jesus’s absolute unique Greatness and His embracing the lowliest act of a slave? How does the one prompt the other? It is my conviction that only great people can love. Only people who have a cosmic identity with the Father, through the Father, and from the Father can lose themselves in the loving service of others. But who, other than Christ, has ever seen the heavens ripped open, had the Spirit descend upon them, and heard the voice of God saying “this is my Son in whom I am well pleased…”? The answer is nobody outside of Christ…and everybody in Him.
You and I cannot love like Christ unless we are like Him…and I don’t mean like Him by the slow, often maddeningly slow, process of sanctification. I mean like Him in the possession of a ludicrously high identity. Like Him in that we too have received a heavenly summons to go save the world (“…as the Father sent me so I am sending you…God will soon crush Satan under your feet…”).
Like Him in that we need nothing from anyone because we have everything we need in what we already have…the love of our heavenly Father. It is a truism that hurt people hurt people. It is also a truism that loved people love people. If you do not love it is likely because you don’t know anyone who loves you. So, if you would love others, you must first know and love the God who loved you first. Who are you in Christ? Answer this question if you would love well.
One last thing to see at the end of the story if you are still with me…When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them,
“Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.John 13:12-16
Mind the example of Christ if you would follow Him in the humble service of love. He didn’t wash feet because He was a servant. He washed feet because He is the LORD of all. C.S. Lewis said we have never met a mere mortal. Every person you have ever met has one of two destinies. You have one of two destinies. If we could see now what you will be one day we would either be tempted to worship you or to believe ourselves to be in the worst of all nightmares. If you know Christ, you have an identity in Him that is beyond the imagination of mortal man. And He intends for you to know it well…and because of it, serve one another in love.
Austin Classical School – 6th Grade