It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love. John 13:1 (NIV)
I’ve been at the bedside of those who knew their time was short. Surrounded by their family and closest friends, I’ve witnessed their desire to express their love as they prepared to leave. While that may be the case when we know our time is brief, I’ve also heard the cries of survivors who said, “I wish I could have had one more chance to say I love you. I wish I could have shown them how much they meant to me.”
At the last supper when the evening meal was served, Jesus would demonstrate the full extent of His love for His disciples in a way they would never forget. John records that Jesus “got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.” (verses 4,5). What a powerful demonstration of the depth of His love for His disciples!
We are not accustomed to washing one another’s feet today. While it may seem foreign to us, it was a common custom in Jesus’ day. When someone walked into another’s home from the dusty streets, a household servant would typically wash the guest’s feet. But, here, Jesus wraps a towel around His waist, as the lowliest slave would do, and washed and dried His disciples’ dirty feet. This demonstration of love would leave a lasting impact in the lives of His disciples. It showed them the full extent of His love and humility in serving them. It must have been humbling for the disciples to have Jesus serve them in such a way.
So often, I think we live with the sense that we must serve God more to show Him how much we love Him. We just need to love God more. That’s our problem. We don’t love Him enough. But, as I read this encounter with Christ and His disciples the night before He would die, I’m struck by the fact that Jesus wants them to know how much He loves them! He wasn’t saying, “Guys, come one. You just need to love Me more!” He was showing them through this humble act of a common servant how much He loved them. He wanted them to be confident in the fact that it wasn’t about how much they loved Him but about how much He loved them. Once they grasped that, their lives would never be the same.
How could Jesus love like that? How can we? I think John reveals the secret in verse 3. “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God….” Jesus knew who He was, where He came from, and where He was going! With security like that, is it any wonder that He could demonstrate the full extent of His love to His disciples? What is it that so often inhibits us from showing the full extent of our love? Maybe it’s our own insecurity. Unlike Jesus, we’re not confident in who we are, where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. Maybe the confidence comes when we realize “whose” we are. I think that’s what Jesus wanted them to understand that night! When I accept His love for me, I have the security I need to express my love for those closest to me. I don’t have anything to prove. I am confident in His love for me, so I am free to love those around me completely – just as Jesus did.
“When He had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ He asked them. ‘You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 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. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.’” (John 13:12-15). Enough said.
- Read 1 John 3:1and spend some time thanking God for loving you. Let the reality of His unconditional love for you sink in. Consider the depth and the full extent of His love that He has demonstrated for you at the cross to forgive you of your sins. Adjust your thinking from how much more you need to love God, to how much He loves you and whose you are.
- As you become secure in His love, you are free to love others completely. In what ways can you demonstrate your love for them? Plan a time when you can show them the full extent of your love through an act of simple kindness or humble service.