Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
John 13:12-17 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants[a] are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
When Jesus wanted to prepare his friends for his coming death, he had supper with them. As they ate and talked, Jesus undoubtedly thought about what lay ahead of him and about the meaning of his ministry and his mission. John says that Jesus knew “that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God.”
To the casual observer, it probably would have seemed like supper as usual, but there was an underlying tension. According to the other gospels, the disciples had been arguing about who was the greatest. In fact, possibly for that reason, their feet were still dirty. You see, the streets were very dirty, inches deep in dust or mud, depending on the weather. The shoes they wore were simply soles with straps to hold them on. Therefore, when they entered the house, their feet needed to be washed. This was a job performed by a servant, but Jesus and his little band of disciples didn’t have a servant. Very likely they took turns performing this task of hospitality.
Why weren’t their feet washed by now? Supper was well under way! If you had been in on the conversation about who was greatest, would you want to wash the others’ feet? James and John asked to sit one at his right and one at his left when he came into power. They believed themselves to be more important than the rest. Would you want to wash their feet after they had said that? If you were in their shoes, would you want to be the one washing the others’ feet? There was tension in the room!
Jesus Gets Up from the Table. Suddenly, the room grew silent as Jesus got up from the table, took off his robe, and put a towel around his waist like a servant! The disciples watched in disbelief as Jesus took a basin and put water in it and began to wash the disciples’ feet! What is he doing?! That’s a job for a servant–not our great teacher! That is a job that servants do not Jesus! They didn’t understand.
Simon Peter was in his usual form that evening. He didn’t understand. Peter was being confronted with the truth about being a disciple a follower of Jesus and it bothered him. Would you have understood? If you have ever participated in a footwashing service, you know how beautiful–and yet how awkward–it can be. Washing another’s feet is not the awkwardness–accepting the washing of your own feet from another is the difficulty. When Jesus came to him, Peter’s mouth was already open in disbelief when he said, “Lord, do YOU wash MY feet?” Jesus said, “Peter, I know that you don’t know what I’m doing now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said, “No, I won’t because you will NEVER wash my feet.” Jesus answered Peter, “Well, then, if you don’t accept my washing of your feet, then you have no part in me.” Then, Peter reversed himself completely to the other extreme, still very much in form for Peter, and said, “Okay, Lord, then don’t just wash my feet, but wash my hands and my head, too!” Jesus said, “He who has bathed does not need to wash but he is clean all over.”
When Jesus finished, he took the towel off, put his robe back on, and sat down in his place. Every eye must have been on him as he did this. The room was quiet and still, except for the movement of the flames in the lamps and the shadows from them which danced around every object in the room. They all waited for Jesus to speak as he looked around the room into each of the questioning faces. “Do you know what I have done to you?”, Jesus asked them. “You call me teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
Jesus made it clear through his powerfully symbolic action that the heart of a true leader is the heart of service. He demonstrated servant leadership for his disciples and call on them to adopt that way of living for themselves. What our world needs today are leaders who are true servants.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster