Today is “Maundy Thursday” of Holy Week. Maundy Thursday sets its focus on Jesus washing His disciples feet in the Upper Room recorded in John chapter 13. I am reminded of a simple but profound truth from Jesus’ example.
Foot washing was an activity reserved for servant’s, particularly Gentile ones. It was a symbolic act of honor to those with a higher status. However, Jesus shatters the social stigma of foot washing to use it as a sign and symbol of what His death and resurrection would accomplish. Jesus, as the apostle John begins his letter, is the One through whom creation was made (John 1:3). The Creator of all things is now a servant in the small and smelly things.
The simple and profound truth is this:
Our position and power becomes an opportunity to extend service to others rather than an excuse from serving others.
Jesus washing the disciple’s feet reinforces and reflects the mission of Jesus “not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus “knows” both that his “hour” had come (purpose) and his relationship to the Father (position) (John 13:1, 3). Selfless and sacrificial service flow from a deep-seated security knowing who we are and what our purpose is.
The motivation and future-oriented picture Jesus provides with the foot washing is that “having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1). The words “to the end” (“εἰς τέλος”) can be understood as “he showed them the full extent of his love” or as “until the end of his life.” Colin Kruse, in his commentary, helpfully observes that it is “intentionally ambiguous” as John will next use “end” with Jesus’ death as he declares “It is finished” (τετέλεσται) from the cross (John 19:30). Jesus’s physical act of washing the disciples feet will find its full reality in His imminent death and resurrection. The disciple’s physical washing will soon mirror the spiritual washing and forgiveness they will receive because of Jesus’ work.
Jesus concludes this scene with a reminder for his disciples that “I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (John 13:15).
With this larger picture in mind, it provides a reminder that selfless and sacrificial service is meant to reflect Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. John, in his first epistle, tells his readers, “Beloved, let us love another” and provides the ultimate example of love “In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:7, 10).
On this Maundy Thursday, we are confronted with the profound truth that selfish and sacrificial service flow from a secure identity and purpose. Our position is not an excuse from service but an invitation to extend our service to others. Our selfless and sacrificial service is meant to mirror the love and sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf that cleanses us from sin and gives us a hope-filled future.