Often a person’s last words before dying are words of great importance. With death near, a father passes on to his family the most important things he wants them to remember about life. A grandmother blesses her family and makes sure they know she loves them with all her heart.
Jesus gathered his closest disciples in an upper room to celebrate Passover the night before He was crucified. In the Gospel of John, chapters 13 through 17, we get to sit in on Jesus’ final teachings to them—and to us. He spoke to them about a place prepared for them in heaven. He promised His Holy Spirit would come to them and lead them into all truth. He told them they are branches that can only bear fruit by remaining in the Vine (in Himself). He told them the world would hate them on account of Him, and the most powerful way the world will know they are His disciples is by their love for one another.
And He washed their feet.
Jesus took a towel and basin and performed the servant’s duty. Travelers who walked most everywhere they went got their feet dirty. It was customary for the servant in a house to wash the guest’s feet when they enter the house or begin a meal. This hospitality custom is sort of like taking off one’s shoes and putting on slippers when entering a Japanese home.
Jesus, the Master, did the servant’s work for His disciples. He humbled Himself for them. He demonstrated His self-giving love for them. In fact, John sets up the whole story in his Gospel with these words: “Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” (John 13:1 NIV)
He loved them to the end.
He loved them to the end of His life. He loved them to the end of the outpouring of His love and grace for them. He loved them to the end of their lives, which is just the beginning of loving them for eternity.
And He loves us to the end.
When one is loved like Jesus loves us, sacrificing everything to redeem us, one is free to love others like we have been loved. When Jesus washed their feet, He told them, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:14-15 NIV)
Jesus calls us to live a servant life. See a need and meet it. Notice a hurting person and help them. Empty ourselves for others. And the driving force for this servant life is love. Love from Jesus motivates our lives. And love for Jesus translates into love for others. At least it should, if we are living as disciples of the One who washed feet and went to a Cross.
With Jesus in the upper room, we learn the deepest truths of our faith. Christianity is not about rules and duty. It is about love and serving and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit making us like Jesus. Let’s take up the towel and basin and serve like our Master.