After that, he [Jesus] poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
I remember hearing of a man who complained about a church’s request for a special offering to meet a specific need. In the same service, they asked for volunteers to help move a family from their flooded home. Finally, as the service concluded, worshippers were invited to join the community in a walk to raise money to feed the world. The man could not take it any longer. He greeted the pastor on the way out of the church with this rebuke, “Christianity! It is give, give, give. I think that’s all you people care about!” The minister paused to consider the complaint and responded, “Yes, I think you are about right. Christ gave for us and expects us to give in return.”
Although our tradition, the United Methodist Church, does not regularly practice foot washing as an ordinance, I have participated and led foot washing services many times. Recently, I conducted a wedding where the bride and groom washed each other’s feet immediately after saying their vows and before their first kiss as husband and wife. It was so moving, and even though my position behind the couple partially blocked my view, it was a priceless moment filled with overwhelming emotion. Love and service are so intertwined.
This past week, Oakland was privileged to host the installation service for our new Johnstown District Superintendent. After being consecrated by the Bishop, members of the district gave him symbolic gifts. One of those gifts was a basin and a towel because leaders are among us to serve.
Jesus, at the Last Supper, took off His clothes, girded Himself as a slave, and “poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:5). When Jesus finished washing the Disciples’ feet, He put His clothes back on and returned to His place at the table. He then began to teach them the meaning of the foot washing. Jesus said, “‘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’” (13:12-14).
When Jesus sent out the 12 Disciples, He did so with this commission, “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:8). Jesus concluded the foot washing at the Last Supper by saying, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you…Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:15, 17).
Our good works of service will not and cannot save us. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us we are saved by grace as a gift of God. Our works do not save us so no one may boast. We have been saved, reconciled to God, and given a home in heaven by grace through faith as a gift. Ephesians 2:10 goes on to say, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Human beings are made and Christians are recreated in Christ to serve. Jesus has shown us by example that even leaders and teachers are made to serve. So, where are you serving? How are you serving at home, in the community, in the Church, and in our world? Jesus has given us an example and a command. Let us go and wash one another’s feet. You were made to serve. ♦
For more by Pastor Randy Bain, visit his blog, and be sure to read the local Our Town where he contributes regularly.