It is hard to imagine how we might spend our remaining time in this world if we were equipped with the knowledge of when and how we were going to die. It seems that knowing would make the moments leading up to that time all the more agonizing. We would be consumed with an array of emotions ranging from panic to terror. After all…we are only human.
Jesus was fully God and fully man. As such, in the remaining hours of His life He made a stunning choice. He choose to take twelve men aside, one of which had already put His death in motion, and give them an object lesson.
In an act of love, beyond comprehension, He closed them off from the world to share one more teaching with them. Words had not been enough to get His message across. But behind closed doors, in a dark little room, He preached His greatest message ever–with a basin and a towel.
The disciples did not really understand Jesus’ mission. They did not understand His ministry either and were clueless about the things to come. In their spare time they argued about who was His favorite, who was most important and many other grandiose notions. Their leader was gaining notoriety and they had begun to think that they were really something.
Joining together for a supper, but unaware it would be the last one together; they had all entered the room wearing the dust and mud of the journey on their feet. It would have been customary to have had a hired servant or slave present to wash their feet when they arrived. The basin was there along with the towel but no servant was present. Surely each one of them had noticed this when they arrived, much to their dismay. Yet they were busy jockeying for a position at the Master’s table, so much so that they did not even consider washing their own feet.
Once everyone was comfortable, perhaps even in the middle of the meal, Jesus got up from the table, made Himself ready and began washing His disciples feet. Not a word was spoken, most likely out of sheer embarrassment. This was simply inappropriate. All had gone to the table with dirty feet, which was pretty disgusting, but no one would have wanted them washed by the Master.
Peter, who seemed to have a knack for allowing whatever he was thinking to fly out of his mouth, verbally protests. He had no plan to allow His Lord to be in the position of a common servant washing his feet. No way. Yet after a loving but firm reply from Jesus he allowed Him to finish.
After Jesus finished, He puts on His robe and went back to His seat. He then asked the question of all questions “Do you know what I have done to you?” Did they know what He had done to them? There was no way that they could have missed it. But did they know why He had done it? He did it to set an example for them to follow in the days to come. It was not about washing feet but rather what it symbolized. To truly be His messengers they would need to follow the example of their teacher. They would have to humble themselves and selflessly serve each other.
Jesus knew that things would be tough for them in the days to come. They would either come apart at the seams or draw together in a bond of selfless unity. It would be by this selfless unity that many would be drawn to Him, not all the other things or ways that they had intended or imagined. Jesus showed them that the bottom was really the top and that actions speak much louder than words.
Each of us should be humbled afresh when we read about the actions of Jesus. We often serve each other with selfish motives. Sometimes we do not even realize it. Not so much as a means of gain but in an attempt to redeem ourselves. Jesus died to do that and the last instructions that He left His disciples were that they should love each other as He loved them.
Simple? Perhaps it sounds that way but are we always loveable? Hardly. The truth is that it is much easier to love a stranger than someone you spend a lot of time with. It is more natural to show patience with someone you rarely see than the people living under your roof or who attend your church regularly. But it is in these acts that people truly see the love of Jesus in you and in me. All other things that we do as Christians pale by comparison to simple acts of servitude done in love.
Let’s face it. We all know how to talk the walk and we equate that with walking the talk. Have we really realized that our actions speak much louder than our words? When we do, we will spend a lot less time talking and much more time attending to the needs of others. After all, talk is cheap.