Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. —John 13:3-5 NIV
I don’t know about you, but there are some jobs I just do not want to do. Usually, they involve unpleasant smells. I can remember helping small children with the flu and working hard not to show how horrid I found the task of cleanup. Since then, I’ve had many opportunities to practice the skill of being pleasant while doing an unpleasant task. I suspect you have, too. The yucky jobs are not easy. But they need to be done.
Jesus, our example, knew how to serve. Before the resurrection, before the crucifixion, before the agony in the garden, on the very night Jesus was betrayed, He served. And it was an unpleasant, smelly service at that. The job no one wanted that night. Just as we expect everyone to wash their hands, please, before they come to the table to eat, back in Jesus’ day, people were expected to have their feet cleaned, too. They reclined on cushions on the floor, which put smelly feet much closer to others’ nostrils than we find them today. In addition, the feet were often exposed to whatever-was-on-the-roads. And that wasn’t always pretty. Or scented pleasantly. Usually, a servant did the foot washing before dinner. Or each man cleaned his own feet. But no one had washed feet that night. So … unbelievably, Jesus chose to do it.
What can we learn from Jesus’ washing of dirty feet?
Doing menial tasks doesn’t demean me. John starts this story by pointing out that Jesus knew fully who He was. Jesus actually held all power in His hands. God in flesh. Why was that pointed out? So that we know Jesus didn’t serve out of some sense of worthlessness, but out of His strength and goodwill. No one is “too good” to do the simple, menial, smelly tasks that sometimes need to be done. No one.
Serving others is unlikely to be convenient. Jesus had a few things on His mind that night. He knew that Judas, one of His own, was going to betray Him, despite all the kindness Jesus had shown him. Despite Jesus’ deep love for him. Despite all the teaching Jesus had poured into Judas. Furthermore, Jesus was mere hours away from His arrest and the horrifying death that would follow. And He knew this. Nevertheless, He saw the need and met it. We can’t wait for great timing and a good mood before we serve. We need to meet the need in front of us whether we feel like it or not.
Voluntary service is a sign of love. Why do parents drag their weary selves out of bed at 2 a.m. to help a vomiting child? Love. Why does an elderly husband carefully help his wife sit up in bed despite the strain on his own weak back? Love. Why did Jesus humble Himself and wash His disciples’ feet? Love. Now, we can serve with other motives, of course. And none of our motives are perfectly pure. However, one of the most beautiful ways to show God’s love to others is to serve them in some unpleasant task. And, as Christ-followers we are to be known by our love. Just like our Lord Jesus was known by His.
Oh, let’s remember that the King of kings, knowing full that He was the King of kings—and knowing what lay ahead of Him—washed dirty feet. And let that stir our hearts to be like Him. Lord, teach us to serve!
Lord, help me to follow in Your wonderful footsteps and serve others. Thank You for modeling the kind of love that does the dirty tasks no one else wants. Your example is humbling to us. We would rather someone else washed the feet. Oh, make us more like You! In Your Name, Lord Jesus, Amen.
You are loved,
Sweet Selah Ministries
To encourage a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth that stillness and knowing God matter most—
and will be reflected in more effective work and service
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