Love and Leadership
John 13:1-5 (ESV)
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him. Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Why did Jesus wash His disciples’ feet?
Two very misunderstood concepts in our society today are love and leadership. We tend to base love off of fluctuating feelings of attraction. The fallout of that is fewer people are willing to commit to marriage these days and sadly. This leads to the rising levels of cohabitation and divorce we’ve all noticed. Leadership is also misunderstood. Some people in positions of authority lord it over those “beneath” them, boss others around, and refuse to do the “dirty work” that they expect others to do. But when we read today’s passage, we see that Jesus had a different view of what love and leadership is.
At this point in John’s narrative, it is the Feast of Passover. God ordained that every year, the Jews would commemorate when He brought them out of Egypt. In Exodus 12:14, the Lord said, “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statue forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” So, every year, Jews would pour into Jerusalem to observe the Passover.
Jesus and His disciples observed the Passover meal in a large upper guestroom (Mark 14:12-16). Jesus knew that it was His time to die. He was going to leave this world and return to the Father. Mark’s account records that Jesus also knew Judas Iscariot was going to betray Him (Mark 14:17-21) and at some point during the meal, Judas left to go do just that. But before Judas could betray Him, Jesus was going to serve him!
Now, sandals were the footwear of choice and streets were dirty. They weren’t paved and they were shared with animals. Plus, people had to walk everywhere they went. So, feet were filthy! For that reason, it was customary for feet to be washed before a shared meal. Imagine reclining at a low table with a bunch of guys who hadn’t washed their feet after walking around the dirty, dusty streets all day. Phew!
But only lowly, menial household servants served in this role because it was such dirty work. That’s why it was such a startling moment when Jesus stood up, but aside his garment, and took up the towel and basin. Imagine the shock when He started washing the feet of the Twelve. Jesus was God in the flesh! The Creator of the universe! And yet, He stooped down to serve in the most humble way.
The Master made Himself a servant. Why? Because that is what godly love does and that is what godly leadership does. Friends, if we want to love and lead like Jesus, we have to serve humbly and sacrificially. “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:44-45).
Lord, thank You for coming as a humble servant. Help me to show Your love to others through acts of sacrificial service and lead with humility. Amen.
Reveal: Who can you humbly and lovingly serve this week for the glory of the Lord?
~ Pastor Nat Crawford