Several weeks ago we began to look at the aspect of Humility as taught and modeled by Jesus Christ as he walked the streets of Palestine. Humility is a word we throw around a lot, especially in Christian circles. We may have an understanding of the word, but we know how much more difficult it is to actually put into practice. We have just recently come through the Easter weekend, and there are some very well-known stories situated within this final week of Jesus’ life that teach us the ultimate expression of humility. The most well-known example of humility took place at the Last Supper when Jesus unexpectedly surprised his disciples by washing their feet (John 13:1-17). In this situation, I think Peter emerges as the hero by the way he reacted to Jesus' action. Why? Because Peter understood what was going on here, the leader was taking on the role of the servant, the boss was serving the employee. And he would have none of it! But in this act of humility Jesus demonstrated the extent of his love for his disciples, including Peter as well as the one who would be called the Betrayer.
In contrast, there is another awkward foot-washing story found in Luke 7:36-47. In this story Jesus was the guest of a prominent Pharisee when their visit was interrupted by a woman of “ill-repute”. She washed Jesus feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Awkward!
Why would she do that? It was an expression of sincere gratitude! She didn’t care about social norms or customs or etiquette. Much was forgiven so she has much to be grateful for. That’s the attitude of humility, an attitude that Jesus chastises his host for lacking! In the Upper Room, Jesus also upset the social norm. He did this by choosing to stoop down on his knees and wash the feet of his “inferioriors” (is that even a word?).
So what? Consider this for a moment, up to this point in the Gospel of John we read about Jesus doing work that no one else had ever done before, nor could do: change water into wine, give sight to the blind, or raising the dead. But here in John 13 we see Jesus doing what almost anyone can do,but what very few of us would want to do. Wash feet!
We may all aspire to be the hero of the day - score the game-winning goal, dazzle the crowd with that stunning dribble that results in high-light plays - and some of us may be able to do such things, once in a while. Yet there is one thing we can all do, each and every day: we can serve; we can adopt an attitude of humility and surprise someone by choosing to serve.
We can all do that ... but do we want to?