“ Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he 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” (John 13:3-5).

It would be easy to skim over this foot washing story as a dramatic lesson in humility. Actually, this example of serving others cannot be minimized.

In those days, the towel and basin were by the entrance of the door; it was proper etiquette for guests who were dining to wash their feet. The roads were dusty and people wore sandals. Considering the recent conversation of who’s the greatest, it wasn’t going to happen. Such a task was demeaning; it was the servant’s duty.

For some, humility does not begin with giving service; it begins with the willingness to receive it. There can be lots of pride and condescension in our giving of service…a subtle way of distancing ourselves from others.

Imagine the feeling of having the Son of God washing your feet? Peter couldn’t stand the idea of Jesus demeaning Himself to wash his feet. Jesus told Peter, “What I do now, you do not understand.” The Bible says after the resurrection, they understood things more clearly…which is an important message for us. We should do what Christ asks, even if we don’t understand. We excuse ourselves; why do it if my heart is wrong? As we put the spiritual life into motion, the Holy Spirit transforms us.

Peter says, “Never shall you wash my feet.” Jesus says, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in Me.” Entrance into heaven is based on Christ’s service to us. His sacrifice on our behalf is His undeserved love extended. Unless He removes our sin, we stand stained before God. Jesus says, “What I have done for you is sufficient.” We can’t earn or supplement or maintain Christ’s cleansing with our religiosity; our works are a response to God’s free gift.

A servant’s heart is an inner disposition. Christianity is not what we know, but what we apply. It’s not what we apply, but how we apply it. Christian service is doing something for another and not wanting or expecting a thank you, or fuming over a forgotten thank you, or needing recognition. It is serving the Lord.

Adapted from “Core Basics from the Upper Room” by Rev. Dr. William A. Lewis