Teaching by Example – Reflections on John 13:1-11
Please read John 13:1-11 first, then read this reflection.
The first surprising element of this passage is that we are told by John that “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that he…” We know the story, he begins to wash his disciples’ feet.
What surprises me is that John tells us that Jesus had been given “all power” and how Jesus serves his disciples so as not to be corrupted by that power. If I’m honest, most all of the examples I’ve seen of people who are in power in the church is that they use that power much like the rulers of this world do – to lord it over others. And if I’m even more honest, I have too often followed that same path.
Yet, Jesus surprises his disciples by doing what the lowest servant would have had to do in that time, wash feet. Everybody’s feet is dirty and nobody was willing to do the lowest job, so Jesus does it. The reason Jesus is able to take the lowest position and wash feet is because he knew who he was and where he was going. When we know who we are in God, we have nothing to prove and we can do the work that no one else is willing to do.
Another surprising part of this passage is Jesus’ response to Peter after Peter said, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus said, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Jesus said, if you don’t let me do this, you have no fellowship with me. It seems that if you are going to wash people’s feet, we have to get close enough to people to touch them. Discipleship isn’t done at a distance. When I reflect on this passage I’m left thinking, how does this passage speak to the typical senior pastor model of church that we have inherited?