By Rev. Amanda Crice
UT Martin Wesley Foundation Director
Do you remember in school right before a big test how teachers would always pull out the stops for a big review session? My favorite teachers would do everything in their power to make sure the most important points stuck in my brain. In today’s passage, Jesus claims the role of teacher and gives a very memorable review session.
On his last night with his closest friends, Jesus wrapped a towel around his waist, knelt down, and washed the feet of his disciples. We’ve heard this story a lot, maybe so much that we’ve become numb to the significance of what is going on here. Take a minute and think about the context:
Washing feet before a meal was a common practice, but it was the job of a slave. Not just any slave, but the lowest of low slaves. Only the lowest of low would be asked to wash someone’s feet after they had walked around in sandals on dirt roads that were shared by travel animals and whatever waste those animals left behind.
I’m not trying to be crude, but an understanding of the filth is necessary to gain an understanding of the supreme level of humility, service, and love that Jesus displayed to his disciples there during that last “review session”. This display was so radical that it made the disciples very uncomfortable. They just knew Jesus was above this; surely the Son of God should leave jobs like this to the kind of people that are supposed to do that stuff.
In response to their protestations Jesus replies, “You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:13-15)
Wow. Talk about a gut check.
This is what it means to be a disciple.
In our current context we are conditioned by different examples. A sense of entitlement runs rampant as we are told by advertisements that we deserve to treat ourselves to the best of the best. We compete and compare on social media. And, we seek to find our worth and fulfillment in our accomplishments.
Jesus is teaching another lesson, though. It isn’t rank, wealth, social status, possessions or worldly accomplishments that show our mastery of the material Jesus presents us with. These things don’t make us good disciples. Instead, Jesus leaves us with this, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
Prayer: Jesus, you have prepared us and shown us the way to be your disciples. Fill our hearts with your love that empowers us to live in your example. Amen.
- What does Jesus’ example and call to discipleship require of you in your current context?
- What obstacles or social constructs seem to stand in the way of answering that call to discipleship?