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.”
Sometimes we joke about having “selective hearing,” that phenomenon in which our ears, or perhaps our brains, seem to stop working the moment someone says something we would rather not hear. It’s a great gimmick for getting out of work or shirking responsibility, but of course, selective hearing is just an excuse and not a very good one. There are also times when we seem to be afflicted with a similarly fake ailment that could be called “selective obedience.” Scripture is filled with many hard truths and challenging exhortations, and sometimes we act as though the really hard verses don’t apply to us.
In my experience, most Christians love this story about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. We sometimes even re-enact it during Maundy Thursday services, and we display towels and basins as symbols of Christ-like service. It’s a touching, beautiful story that gives evidence of how deeply Jesus loves us. He humbled himself as a servant. He suffered in our place. He died for us. In all these ways, we learn about the gracious heart of our Savior. But then we reach the end of the story when Jesus put his robe back on and told the disciples that they need to follow his example and do for others what He just did for them. Jesus tells us to wash one another’s feet. Go and serve those in need. Humble yourself like Jesus did to lift others up. That’s when we have to fight against that troublesome case of selective hearing and selective obedience. “Do as I have done to you.”
How can you wash someone’s feet today? Not literally; in our culture, that would be offensive or just plain weird. But how can you humble yourself to serve the needs of someone you know? You could share a meal with a lonely person. You could listen to someone who is feeling discouraged. You could care for someone who is ill. You could pray with a friend during a time of need. Obeying Jesus’ words doesn’t have to mean some grand gesture or expensive sacrifice. What Jesus did for the disciples was practical, simple, personal and done in humility. Anyone with a loving heart can serve others as Jesus did. May God bring you opportunities to follow our Lord’s example of self-giving love and humble service.
Father, You are kind and good. Thank You for sending Jesus to serve my needs and to show me how to serve others. Teach me humility and show me ways to care for the people you bring into my life. Help me to show others the love that Jesus shows me. I ask this in His holy name. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian