What would you think if your boss got on his/her knees and started polishing your shoes without warning?
OK, now that you’ve picked yourself off the floor from laughing hysterically at the thought, take this in — it really happened. Jesus did it.
It’s only recounted in the Gospel of John – John 13:1-17 – but the meaning of the humble task is immense.
What Jesus Did
They were in the Upper Room ready to celebrate the Passover meal when Jesus surprises His 12 apostles with His actions.
First He takes a towel and wraps it around His waist — much like a waiter would and like the servants of His day did.
Then He takes a pitcher and basin and starts washing the disciples’ feet.
Living in Phoenix, I can understand how dusty feet can get when one’s wearing sandals. Imagine back then where there were no paved roads or sidewalks. The feet were the dirtiest part of the body.
When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”
“No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”
Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”
Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”
Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”John 13:6-11
Why did Jesus wash their feet?
- To show that those who believe in Him will be cleansed from sin.
- To show the fulfillment of one of the Prophet Isaiah’s prophecies:
Fill in the valleys,Isaiah 40:4
and level the mountains and hills.
Straighten the curves,
and smooth out the rough places.
- To reiterate what He taught in other occasions:
“But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”Matthew 23:12
“I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”Mark 10:15
- To instill in them to Love one another as they love themselves.
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”Matthew 22:34-40
God likes humility. God hates pride.
If Jesus, the King of kings, can get on His knees and wash His friends’ feet, then we should be able to do the same.
And the ultimate humiliation was still to come.
Betrayed by a Friend
Have you ever been betrayed by a friend or family member? Even a broken promise hurts. Someone you trust does something that is totally opposite their character — or so you thought.
That’s what happened to Jesus – and He knew what was going to happen.
Judas – the name in modern day is associated with a traitor. Judas was the disciples’ treasurer — he carried the disciples money bag — and he was greedy. He sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. He went to the chief priests and asked them,”What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” (Matthew 26:14-16)
(Note: The Gospel of John has Judas making the comment of the expensive perfume, also indicating that he used to help himself to what was put into the money bag. (John 12:4-6 )
During the Last Supper, Jesus accuses Judas…
When it was evening, Jesus sat down at the table with the Twelve. While they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”
Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one, Lord?”
He replied, “One of you who has just eaten from this bowl with me will betray me. For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”
Judas, the one who would betray him, also asked, “Rabbi, am I the one?”
And Jesus told him, “You have said it.”Matthew 26:20-25
Luke Explains how a Leader should be a Servant
“But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me. For it has been determined that the Son of Man must die. But what sorrow awaits the one who betrays him.” The disciples began to ask each other which of them would ever do such a thing.
Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.Luke 22:21-27
Everything comes back to humility
In this day and age, where a tiny virus can bring governments to their knees, we need to realize that we, as mere humans cannot do everything. We need God. The God who loves us so much that He humbled Himself as a man and took all our sins — past, present and future — onto His shoulders to the cross.
Our Walk through Holy Week is about to get very dramatic.
Soli Deo Gloria — to God Alone be the Glory!