John 13 through 17 are some of the most significant chapters in the Gospel of John. They are called the upper room discourse, where Jesus shares some of the most intimate moments with the disciples just before his arrest and crucifixion. Last words are important words, and these constitute his last words to the disciples before his death.
I love how John 13 starts. "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." Here is Jesus staring death in the face, and despite His imminent suffering, He loves his own to the end. That is Jesus, and hopefully, we will love and serve to the end of our lives as well.
We read, "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."
No one had washed the feet of the disciples when they came into the upper room for supper. In fact, there was no one to do it. That was the job of lowly servants, and no one was going to humble themselves to wash one another's feet. Except for Jesus. The God of the Universe who had left heaven for Bethlehem, who had lived among us for a season. The one who would shortly give His life on our behalf. He was humble enough to do what no one else would do. He loved them to the end.
'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.”
He calls us to a life of service toward one another with these words. Can you imagine what relationships would look like among God's people if we had the same humble, sacrificial and loving attitude toward one another? It would transform our relationships and bring a new level of humility and service to one another. He loved them to the end and tells us to do the same. If it was not beneath Jesus, it should not be beneath us.
And if you think that washing the disciples' feet was significant, remember that Jesus also washed the feet of Judas, who would shortly betray him. And he reclined at dinner with the same. What can we say to this except that Jesus loved them to the end?
What does it mean to wash one another's feet? It means that we look for ways that we can serve one another. It may mean that we share resources with one another. It may mean that we give up precious time to help someone and even those who we don't naturally gravitate to. It may not be convenient, but it is about loving one another well. It is not loving others when it is convenient but when it is needed.
One of my favorite authors is Henri Nouen. His writings on spiritual transformation are amazing and insightful. Where did he get his insights? In large part in ministering to special needs people who lived in spiritual communities for them around the world. His life was transformed as he ministered to and served people that most of the world ignores and marginalizes. It was humbling, and it was a far distance from his speaking at Ivy League schools and rubbing shoulders with the important and learned. And it changed his life, and the insights he gained have transformed many other lives. But it started with humble service. He would say that he was the recipient of the blessings of that service and that those he served taught him the most profound spiritual lessons of his life.
A bit later on this evening, in John 15, Jesus said this: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for I have made known to you everything that I learned from my Father. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name, the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.”
Notice how Jesus directly links our love for Him with our love for each other. And He connects the fruit that we bear with our love for Him and for one another. "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." Follow my example. Show the same love to one another as I have loved you, and by the way, I no longer call you servants but friends, and I have chosen you to bear fruit so love each other.
The church and Christians, in general, need a reformation of love toward one another, and it must arise out of humility and be grounded in the kind of love that Jesus demonstrated to his disciples and us. Jesus loved them to the end, and let us do the same.
Father, would you give me the humility to wash the feet of those around me in practical acts of service? Teach me to love as you love and to care as you care. And thank you that you call me your friend. Amen.
The question for today: How can I better love those around me?