Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
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.”
After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.” JOHN 13:1-17, NLT
Have you ever washed another person’s feet? Some people get squeamish at the thought of it. After all, feet can be dirty, sweaty and smelly. I’ve been giving my daughter home pedicures for years, but I make sure her tootsies go into the warm, sudsy water as quickly as possible. From that point on, I actually enjoy this small act of service that results in sparkly painted toenails and a smiling girl.
This passage in John 13 isn’t about holy pedicures. It’s about Jesus demonstrating selfless love and humility to His disciples. He had already stepped down from Heaven to dwell in skin, and was about to hang on a cross for our sins — things we cannot do for ourselves or each other. But small, everyday acts are do-able, and Jesus tells us to do them in verse 15:I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.
This intimate, humble act of foot-washing flies directly in the face of our pride. Check out Peter’s response. In essence he says, “Um, you’re going to do what? Wash my feet? No way, Jesus!” Yes, he is expressing love for his Savior, and with a zeal that is so Peter. But his response also reveals pride and self-will. Jesus explains that only by cleansing Peter can he be part of God's eternal kingdom. Peter changes his mind and gushes a boisterous, “Well then, don’t stop at just my feet!” Again, Peter is demonstrating his affection for our Lord, but he’s still focused more on himself than humbly receiving what Jesus is offering.
I can sense pride and humility battling it out in my heart all the time. When I refuse to ask for help, or when I refuse to give help where needed, pride and selfishness are ruling me. Sometimes I’m receptive to being served (like Peter eventually was), but I make such a fuss that it points attention to me instead of God, which is a sneaky form of pride.
Thomas A. Tarrants contrasts pride and humility this way: “Pride is having an exalted sense of who we are in relation to God and others; humility is having a realistic sense of who we are before God and others. We must not think too highly to too lowly of ourselves.”
The good news of the Gospel is that we do not have to die prideful. Soon after Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He went to the cross, where He paid the price for our pride — and every other sinful attitude, word and behavior of all humanity.
• Which do you tend to shy away from more: giving or receiving acts of service?Why do you think that is the case?
• What blessings have you received by serving others or by being served?
Dear Father in Heaven, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet as an example of how to live out the Gospel. Show us ways today that we can serve — and be served — humbly and graciously, with gratitude in our hearts for all You are and all You’ve done. Thank you for loving us from every hair on our heads down to our toes. Amen.
PC3 writer Katy Davis wrote today’s devotional.