“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher,
have washed your feet,
you also should wash one another’s feet.”
John 13:14 (NIV)
As I spoke to the College and Career group on a hot summer’s afternoon at a campsite, I looked out of the window of the meeting room and did a double take. My first glance at the man told me he was simply collecting the garbage from where it was stored in containers beside the kitchen door.
The garbage collector looked very familiar so I took a second glance. It was then that I recognized the face of a highly important person in the work of the Lord. The man could easily have been the speaker of the week instead of me because of how gifted he was in public ministry. Instead he was taking the humble position of a garbageman and allowing me the more exalted work of teaching a large group of eager young adults God’s Word.
I have never forgotten that moment even though it happened 30 some years ago. The man was evidently quite happy doing the menial service and whistled cheerfully as he went about his work. It startled me but I was looking at Jesus in that man on a hot summer’s day.
In John 13 Jesus was seeking to teach the disciples the dignity of ordinary work by washing the disciples feet. Those feet belonged to the Twelve Apostles who had been arguing about which of them should be reckoned the greatest in the Lord’s work. It seems none of them was humble enough to do the needed yet lowly task of washing the feet of their equals. Instead they all avoided being the one to stoop before the others and do the task of foot washing.
The Lord from glory humbled Himself therefore and set to the task of doing what His followers felt they were too good to do. How embarrassed they were is evidenced in Peter’s strong negative reaction to our Lord’s attempt to wash his feet. “Never shall you wash my feet!” said Peter when the Master sought to reach for his grimy feet to bathe them.
How disturbed they all must have been when Jesus knelt before each one and did this simple task. How they must have silently chastened themselves over their refusal to do what they ought to have done.
Have you felt yourself above doing some “feet washing” for the children of God? Are you too important to go early to the church Sunday morning to shovel away the snow? Or are you too busy doing highly visible things to go by on a summer’s Saturday afternoon when no one would see you to cut and trim the grass so the Lord’s house would look good the next day for the saints when they gathered to worship and praise the One Who was humble enough to wash dirty feet?
How honoured any of us should feel to have the privilege to collect garbage, wash feet, or cut grass for the One Who died and rose again for us! Let us look for opportunities to do things for Jesus that others might never see us doing. May we always be willing to act as Jesus did that day in the Upper Room and honour others above ourselves by “washing one another’s feet”.