Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me. ~ John 7:28,29
Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;
He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them wherewith he was girded. ~John 13:3, 4-5.
This is a familiar episode – Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, the example to them of how they ought to serve one another and that our stations in life matter less than how we love and serve. One day while reading these verses, though, I noticed how John introduced the episode – through verse 3. He gives this – Christ’s knowledge of who and what he was – as the reason for the Lord’s actions here. Jesus knew that God had sent him – that “he was come from God, and went to God”. If we read the following episode while keeping John 7:28 and 29 and 13:3 in mind, it becomes clear that he was able to be truly humble because he knew who he was. He washed his disciples’ feet, both because he knew what it meant (in the sense of an ordinance) and because he had such a sure knowledge of his purpose. Not needing to prove himself to anyone, he was able to bless and serve them humbly, washing their feet as a servant would.
Peter thought this was beneath the Lord, because we are usually so caught up with proving ourselves to each other and measuring ourselves against each other that we would be ashamed to do certain things, like acts of service or kindness in some instances, because our status would be injured. But if we know who we are – children of God – then master or servant, it matters not. Our identity and mission is sure, and humility will not break it.
Verses 14-16 finish off the lesson:
If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
It is the Master Teacher at work, and together with John’s skillful interpretation and presentation, we have a lesson that is beautifully simple and perfectly profound.