Photo courtesy of LoveSingapore
Did Peter forget something?
It’s Passover. Israel’s most sacred meal. In keeping with custom, Jesus and His disciples recline on cushions around a low table. Their feet are stretched out behind them. None could have failed to notice that his feet were unwashed.
In that day and age, most people travelled on foot. Some wore sandals. Many went barefoot. A Jewish host was expected to provide a slave to wash the weary, soiled feet of a guest. Or at least a basin of water and a towel for the guest to wash himself.
The foot washing foreshadows the Cross where sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus.
Foot washing was not a luxury, but a necessity. Omitting this service was a serious breach of hospitality (Genesis 18:4; Judges 19:21; Luke 7:44).
Jesus had sent Peter ahead to prepare the Passover (Luke 22:8-13). Had Peter forgotten something?
For three years, Jesus had been teaching and modelling humility and servanthood. Perhaps now He waited to see if any of His disciples would grab the basin and do the necessary. Why not Peter, His right-hand man? Surely, that would earn him another Blessed art thou, Simon Bar Jonah!
However awkward they must have felt, not one of the disciples lifted a finger. And why should they? Foot washing was the menial task of a Gentile slave. No adult male Jew was expected to do it. Not even a Jewish slave.
What happens next is utterly astonishing and unprecedented. Jesus takes the towel and basin. He humbles Himself like a lowly slave. He washes and dries His disciples’ smelly, grimy feet.
It was a striking reversal of roles. A devastating blow to the disciples’ paralysing pride. But still, not one of them volunteered to help or to wash the Lord’s feet.
Peter protested. But Jesus insisted: If I don’t wash you, you have no part with Me. The foot washing foreshadows the Cross where sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus.
The point was made and should never be forgotten: If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet (John 13:14).
Have we forgotten something?
After a meal with his students, Dietrich Bonhoeffer asked for volunteers to help in the kitchen. No one moved. Dietrich went to the sink and started washing the dishes. Only then did others come to help.
But it was too late. Now it was out of guilt instead of goodwill. And besides, Dietrich had locked the door. His point was well made and never forgotten. A leader’s authority is only as great as his or her humility. Have we forgotten something?
“If serving is beneath you, leading is beyond you.” – Toby Mac
- Jesus said: Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave (Matthew 20:26-27).
True disciples are servants. Servants do every task with equal dedication. The size of the task is irrelevant. The only issue is, does it need to be done?
You will never arrive at the state in life where you’re too important to help with menial tasks. God will never exempt you from the mundane. It’s a vital part of your character curriculum (Rick Warren).
Examine yourself. Pray: Dear Lord, forgive my arrogance. I can no longer hide nor evade the issue. I confess my sin of self-importance. I’m guilty of playing the power game and pulling rank. I’ve relied on my position and authority to whip others into shape instead of leading by example in doing the menial stuff. I’ve failed to model what it means to be a servant.
Crush my ego. Crucify my flesh. Free me from self-deception. Break the strongholds of false identity derived from titles, rights, and privileges.
Give me the mind of Christ who, being in the form of God, took on the form of a slave, and washed His disciples’ feet. Lord, whether it’s stacking chairs, clearing trash, washing dishes, cleaning toilets, or pushing wheelchairs, help me to do it with all my heart (Colossians 3:23).
- Peter wrote: Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God (1 Peter 5:6). The Greek text actually reads: Be humbled under the mighty hand of God. In other words, you don’t have to crawl under a doormat. God humbles us when we simply and willingly cooperate.
Every day, God gives us countless opportunities to be humbled under His mighty but gentle hand. Someone cuts the queue. Someone jostles you off the path. Someone fails to return your greeting. Someone dismisses your idea. Someone takes your favourite seat in a cool corner of the church.
Pray: Lord Jesus, give us the presence of mind to recognise the many occasions You arranged for us to become last of all and servant of all. Let us not miss a single opportunity, but make the most of each one. May we always take the lowest place, grab the most humiliating task, and do it with grace and gladness under Your mighty hand.
- Ponder and pray: If serving is beneath you, leading is beyond you (Toby Mac). Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all (Mark 10:43-44).
Read the devotional from Day 17, July 17: Eye of the needle here.