April 24

Bible Reading: John 13

John 13:12-14, “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’.”

J. Vernon McGee, “We come now to a most unusual incident.  I wish I could shock you, startle you with it.  We hear it so often that we lose the wonder of it.  Jesus Christ leaves heaven’s glory and comes down to this earth and He takes the place of a slave and washes feet!”

The washing of feet was a common practice in Jesus’ day.  They wore only sandals, so it was the first act upon entering a house, both for cleansing and refreshing purposes.  In most cases, the host furnished the water, and the guests washed their own feet.  But amongst the richer folks, the washing was done by a slave and was amongst the lowliest of services (1 Samuel 25:41).

That’s what is so remarkable about this incident!  It is the eternal Son who purposed to take the place of a servant in washing the feet of the disciples.  He came to serve and would soon serve by giving His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  How radically different was the life of Jesus!  In his sinless and selfless perfection, His life was radically divergent from any life before or since. 

We can imagine the disciples wondering, “What are you doing, Jesus?” as He began.  They’d no doubt been a part of countless foot-washings before, but never like this one.  We see some of that in Peter’s response as Jesus’ began to wash his feet.  What was the Master doing taking the place of a servant?  But it was more than just that.  That He, being their Master, should wash their feet was surprising enough, but when you consider His knowledge of what they were soon to do — that makes the matter doubly so.

He washed their feet.  Including the feet of Judas, that were mere minutes away from walking away to sell Jesus out.  And the feet of the disciples, who were prone to argue amongst themselves as to who was the greatest, and who would do so again on that very occasion (Mark 9:31-34, 10:32-45; Luke 22:23-27).  With their feet, they’d flee from Jesus in abandonment upon His arrest.  He washed the feet of them all.  A motley crew.  Sinful, selfish, attention-seeking, hard-headed disciples.  People like us (Romans 5:8). 

He rose from supper.  Laid aside His garments.  Girded Himself about.  Poured water in the basin.  And began to wash the disciple’s feet.  Wiping them with the towel with which He was girded.  He did it all.  No one else had thought to do it.  No one intervened to replace Him or assist Him.

Why did He do it?  Unlike all of us, who are sinfully prone to pursue first our own self-interests, the “Son of man… came to serve” (Mark 10:45).  He was amongst them “as the one who serves” (Luke 22: 27).  He was always serving, and His capacity to do so knew no bounds.  The question “What are you doing there, Jesus, washing the feet of the disciples?” elicits another bigger one, “What are you doing there Jesus, hanging on a cross for sins not your own?” Symbolically, the foot-washing looked forward to that greater future act.  But there was another purpose behind Jesus’ actions.  He did what He did to set an example for us (John 13:15).

Jesus has called us to a radically different way of thinking and living, one that is according to His example.  We are at our best in Christ when we follow in His steps, putting the needs of others ahead of our own (Philippians 2:3-8).  By the Spirit—forsaking pride, pursuing love, setting aside our supposed rights, showing forgiveness, extending grace. 

Chuck Swindoll put it this way, “To serve. To give. That’s at the heart of it all.  We are to be engaged in a lifestyle that is characterized by authentic selflessness—one in which being preoccupied with the other person’s needs and welfare leads us to experience genuine happiness and fulfillment.  This was the lifestyle of our Lord and Master, who is the supreme model of the unselfish life.”

“But I am among you as the one who serves.” – Jesus (Luke 22:27)

Meekness and majesty, manhood and deity
In perfect harmony, the Man who is God
Lord of eternity dwells in humanity
Kneels in humility and washes our feet.
O what a mystery meekness and majesty
Bow down and worship for this is your God.

Author: looking2jesus13

Having served as pastor at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, in Astoria, Oregon, for almost three decades, my wife’s cancer diagnosis led to my retirement and subsequent move to Heppner to be near our two grandchildren. I divide my time between caring for Laura and working as a part time hospice chaplain, preaching on occasion, and spending time with family and spoiling my chocolate lab.

One thought on “THE MASTER SERVANT”

  1. Thank you so much! May God keep whittling away the pride to make me a servant- even today. You and Laura are beautiful examples. Thank you! Hug each other for us. We love you both.


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