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“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 13:12-17, New Living Translation
Today’s Reading: John 13
Listen to today's reading on her.BIBLE®
Making provision for washing a guest’s feet was an expected act of hospitality in Palestine at the time of Christ. It’s likely that Jesus and the disciples had already washed their feet before they began the meal that Thursday evening. When Jesus stood up toward the end of the meal and took the position of a servant to wash their feet, they were shocked. Peter outright refused to participate until Jesus told him, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8).
Fortunately for the disciples, Jesus explained why He did this. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.”
At His last meal with them before His death on the cross, Jesus was shining a light on the disciples’ persistent point of conflict with each other. They had often argued on the road about which of them was the greatest. Jesus never told them not to hope to be the greatest. He redefined what “the greatest” means. After washing their feet, He said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
What did He mean? The most esteemed should take the lowest place. The leader should humbly serve the follower. The one who deserves robes and crowns should clothe himself as a slave. The very next day, Jesus was stripped of His clothes and punished as a criminal. He was not forced to suffer as He did. Jesus volunteered. Nothing was taken from Him, but He offered Himself up for our sin. His exchange of glory for shame is the perfect example of exchanging greatness for humility.
We, who have received so much, are likewise called to lay down our privilege and comfort for the sake of others. Jesus said if we know this, if we understand His example, we will be blessed as we follow Him. Jesus shined the light of His example to guide us onto our path to true greatness.
Whose life has inspired you to be a servant leader?
How can you follow their example?
Lord Jesus, thank You for showing me the path to true greatness. Help me today to see my opportunities to serve others and follow Your example. Let me excel in humbling myself. I love You and welcome Your light into my life. Amen.
How can I follow Jesus’ example of true greatness? If you are an athlete or have one in your household, check out these resources from Athletes in Action® — Cru’s ministry to athletes — to grow as a Christ-centered sports leader.
Elizabeth Schenkel and her husband, Erick, have served on Cru staff on three continents as well as in pastoral ministry in Massachusetts. They have five grown children and five grandchildren. She especially enjoys communing with God’s creation on long walks in the north woods.
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