The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
H.A. Hodges, was a brilliant student at Oxford University in Britain. Hodges was an agnostic. Since he was certain that nobody could really prove God’s existence, he felt it was intellectually impossible to profess a belief in God. But then, he also acknowledged that he couldn’t actually disprove God’s existence. One day, however, walking through downtown Oxford, he was drawn to a store window. His interest was captured by a simple painting, done by a Christian artist. The subject: Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. Hodges was gripped by the scene, and he said, "If God is like that then that God shall be my God!" A God who modeled loving service was more than Hodges could turn away from.
As the disciples met to celebrate the Passover shortly before the end of Jesus’ life here on earth, he washed their dirty feet. What Jesus did was completely out of character with his role as their Lord. Important people didn't wash feet--they had their feet washed. The task of washing feet was assigned to a servant, a lowly act of hospitality, as cool water washed away the dust of the road. No wonder the disciples were uncomfortable with Jesus washing their feet. "No," says Peter, "you shall never wash my feet." But Jesus replied, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."
Have you ever washed another's feet? This custom is no longer part of our culture, but perhaps you have washed another's feet through a humble act of service? "When you wash the feet of a leper," Mother Teresa told the women who shared with her in her work, "you are washing the feet of Jesus!" Washing feet today may be translated into cleaning up after someone who is sick, or preparing food for someone who is tired, or doing the shopping for an aged parent. "I have set you an example, that you should do as I have done..." Then, said Jesus, "Happy are you if you do these things."
Let’s make one observation about service. There is a difference between
serving the way Jesus did and what writer Richard Foster calls “self-rightous service.” In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Foster writes, “Self-righteous service is temporary. It functions only while the specific acts of service are being performed. True service is a life-style. It acts from ingrained patterns of living. It springs spontaneously to meet human need.”
When one of the graduating classes of the Denver Seminary marched across the platform to receive their diplomas, Dr. Vernon Grounds, then the seminary president, presented each graduate with a gift. A new Bible? No. An inspiring book? No. He presented each person with a towel‑‑a common ordinary hand towel to remind them of the example of Jesus‑‑a visual reminder of the fact we are to be servants, not lords. Those towels have now been carried all over the world by men and women who have learned that lesson well.
May we too, always travel with a “basin and towel,” remembering Jesus’ words, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-7). We serve because of Jesus’ example, who Jesus is to us and because we are listening to Him. Genuine servants live for an audience of One.
Resource reading: John 13:1-17.