Biblical Illuminations
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Jesus Washes the Disciples' Feet - A Lesson in Service

Posted by Douglas Twitchell on Jun 29, 2010
I was recently reading John 13, and it occurred to me that maybe I've been taught this passage incorrectly all my life.
It seems as though I grew up with the notion that there was a servant who traditionally came and did the washing of the feet, and that for some reason or another, this servant never showed up.

It seems as though I grew up with the notion that the disciples sat looking at one another with expressions of disdain, wondering which of them would choose to take on the job of that servant, and that Jesus, seeing that none of them was willing, stepped forward and did the job.

Perhaps I was never taught those things; perhaps I just assumed them. Or perhaps they were simply implied in the teaching I received.

Regardless, upon re-reading the text of John 13, I'm not sure those assumptions are reasonable. In fact, there is no mention of a servant who didn't show up, nor is there any mention of any disciples thinking about who was going to wash the feet.

When we imagine the passage that way, I think we do a discredit to the demonstration of servant-hood which Christ was giving his followers. I don't think Jesus waited long enough to see if one of the disciples would volunteer. I don't think he even waited long enough to find out if a servant would show up. Maybe a servant did show up, and was horrified to discover that Jesus was already doing his job for him!

Because no good servant waits to see if someone else will do his job for him. The servant dives in without hesitation, because the job needs to be done.

The scripture tells us that he simply got up from the table and did the job. And perhaps, as much as the fact that he was willing to do it, the fact that he did not seem to hesitate ought to be a lesson and an inspiration for me. "As I did for you," he tells us, "you do for one another."

Don't wait for someone else to serve. Dive in first, and get your hands dirty before anyone else even has a chance to get started.

Where to Go from Here...

Read more: Humility
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