Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” – John 13:8 (ESV)
Today’s reading is one of the more intriguing portions of Scripture. In Jewish tradition, the foot washer was the lowest rung on the ladder of servants. Just thinking about what folks were walking through in the course of a day pretty much explains why. The feet were not enclosed like they are today, rendering them open to all kinds of bad things! In washing the feet of the disciples, Jesus could not have lowered Himself any further than He did.
While it may appear that Peter was trying to protect the Lord, what he was really doing was exhibiting the contempt he held for the people whose role Jesus was assuming. Peter’s pride motivated him to not want Jesus to wash his feet. In subsequent verses, he pled that Jesus wash his hands and head as well, but Jesus refused. When finished, Jesus taught the meaning of
His actions. He explained that he had been an example to them, that they should be as willing to serve others as He was to serve them.
Today, we face the same challenge as Peter – to swallow our pride and serve our fellow man. Your choice to serve others may not take the form of literal foot washing. Rather, you may find yourself serving others by sharing your time, talents and possessions. Simply serve others as God directs, without allowing pride to determine if you think others are worthy of your attention.
I jokingly tell people, “I think humility might be my best trait. I am frequently surprised about how humble I am.” There is a dearth of humility in the Church today. Pride is replacing humility and it’s causing rifts, broken relationships, war torn countries, strife in families and communities. Jesus is the model of humility. Here are three main areas Jesus displays humility:
- His focus is on the Father’s will, not his own. As a Christian, we have to surrender our own will and live at God’s will. Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). If we want to model Jesus in humility, we need to do God’s will, not our own.
- His focus is away from himself, not on himself. 1 Corinthians 10:24 says it like this, “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” This is an area I struggle in: am I focusing too much on myself? Do I have too much self-focus when I need to focus on those in need around me? Displaying humility requires you stop thinking about yourself all the time and begin thinking about how you can serve others.
- His focus is on serving, not being served. Just think of the example in the story above. The creator of the universe becomes a man and then lowers himself to that of a servant to wash His disciples’ feet. Jesus tried to use this as a teaching moment for us to understand how we are to become a servant to others.
Paul wrote that we should “not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, but to think of ourselves with sound judgment” (Romans 12:3). Humility is a realistic evaluation of our condition.
As I prepare to visit Guatemala, I pray that I will look at life with more humility and strive to serve others around me without elevating myself.