After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. (John 13:5)
We expect people to bow at the feet of a king. It is shocking that a King would bow at the feet of His subjects—and even more remarkable would wash their dirty feet. Yet, that is exactly what Jesus did in the thirteenth chapter of John’s Gospel. When Mary bows at the feet of Jesus and anoints those feet with oil in the previous chapter, we are stirred by her love for her Lord, but when Jesus bows at the feet of His disciples in this chapter, we are shocked by His love for His own. Will we be the Body of Christ showing His love to our world? That is His example and exhortation. Jesus stooped to serve and He calls on us to do the same.
Consider that stooping to serve ELEVATES HUMILITY (v.1-5). With God, the way up is down. The humble are exalted. The example of Jesus here elevates the virtue of humility as a character quality all of us are to aspire to possess. Ours is a world that prizes power, position, a name in lights, and fame in headlines. Sadly, this spirit has infiltrated the church. It is nothing new. The disciples regularly debated as to which of them would be greatest in the kingdom of heaven—and they were even bickering about it in the upper room, as Jesus silences them with this act of humility. Imagine, the King of Glory stooping to wash dirty feet! Why? His love motivated Him (v.1). It is why thirty three years before this He rose from His throne in heaven, laid aside his royal robe, took the towel of our humanity and came to lowly earth to wash away our sins with His blood.
Furthermore, stooping to serve EFFECTS HOLINESS (v.6-10). To be holy means to be set apart for God. There are two dimensions of this: we are holy through our position in Christ. Then we are to become holy through our progression in faith. A dramatic illustration of these twin truths is presented in these verses. Peter didn’t need a bath. That happens at salvation—we are washed from our sins. Still, we walk every day in a dirty world, and even the holy people of God can become defiled. We need the cleansing of confession.
Note that stooping to serve EXPOSES HYPOCRISY (v.10-11). Judas had never had a bath! He was not saved and that night’s events would expose his hypocrisy. He wasn’t a believer, but a make-believer. If you stop and compare the actions of Peter and Judas that night, were they so different? Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, and Peter denied Jesus to save his own skin. Both men wept bitterly because of what they did. Yet, one is in heaven and one is in hell. That’s because one was washed in salvation and the other was still dirty. Peter was a backslider, but Judas was an apostate.
Stooping to serve EXPRESSES HAPPINESS (v.12-17). The old KJV says, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” Have you washed anyone’s feet lately? What ministry are you serving in? We go through life trying to find something or someone to make us happy and we search in vain. Instead we ought to seek to make others happy—and an amazing thing happens—we discover joy! Stoop to serve someone today!