Summary: : It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, Jesus now showed them the full extent of His love.
After they had eaten, Jesus took a pitcher and towel and began to wash the feet of his disciples. If pressed, I’d have to confess that I don’t really want to wash your feet. How about you? Does the thought of washing my feet delight you? It’s difficult for us to really want to something like this. But it was not difficult for the Lord because he had emptied himself of self-love. In this act of washing the feet of others, Jesus set for us an example, an example that we remember on this day, on this night, Maundy Thursday.
Jesus did not say to his disciples, “If anyone will come after me, let him enjoy himself, let him be gorgeously dressed, let him be drunk with delight.” No, he said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him…. I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:16).
The foot washing performed by the Lord on the first Maundy Thursday shows us that while we may desire to be clothed in righteousness, it is necessary that we be stripped of all pride and self-love before we can put on the white robe washed in the blood of the Lamb.
That Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and that we are called to live in a similar spirit of love, service, and humility is not easy to hear, but if one is receptive to this teaching, the truth of it will feed your spirit, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32b). Do not listen to the voice that suggests that you live for yourself. Follow instead the example of our Lord. Do not listen to the voice of self-love which is the voice of Satan who wishes you ill. Follow instead the example of our Lord. The example of Jesus is a gift given to us for our good. “What man is there who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who as Him! (Matthew 7:9,11).
Jesus’ life was full of humiliation, but we are horrified by the slightest humiliation. How do you expect to know Jesus if you do not seek Him where He was found: in suffering and the cross? You must imitate Him. But don’t think you can follow Him in your own strength—you are going to have to find all your strength in Him.
Seek to follow Jesus along the path that he has taken, the road of humility. If you really want to grow after the discovery of your faults, do not justify nor condemn yourself because of those faults. Instead, quietly bring them before God.
It isn’t enough to separate oneself from the world’s ways. You also must allow humility to form you into something entirely new, you are to become like Christ. Separation from the world means turning away from worldly concerns. When humility is formed in you, humility will turn you away from your old self-centered nature. Every trace of pride must be surrendered. And when you are willing to wash your neighbor’s feet without resentment, you will be ready for the Kingdom of Heaven.
Don’t listen to your self-centered nature. Self-love whispers in one ear and God whispers in the other. The first is restless and reckless; the other is peaceful and speaks but a few words in a gentle voice. As soon as you listen to the loud voice of self you will not hear the soft tones of God’s Spirit.
Self-love talks of being well thought of. Self-love despairs of such things as washing the feet of others. God’s love, on the other hand, whispers that self should be forgotten—counted as nothing so that God might be all.
While you live in this earthly realm, you can understand only in part. Self-love, which is the source of your faults, is also what hides your faults from you and prevents you from seeking forgiveness, healing and transformation in and through the Lord. The light of God will show you what you are really like—try washing your neighbor’s feet if you are in doubt—the state of your soul will be revealed. If you can wash your neighbor’s feet without shame, Christ lives within you. If this task remains onerous to you, you are not yet His disciple. The servant is not greater than the master.
The point of trusting God is not to do great things that you can feel good about, but rather to grow into the likeness of Christ until you can wash your neighbor’s feet without shame. Small things become great when they are done as God wills. You and I are not perfect. But we become more perfect when picking up the towel and washbasin and empty ourselves of self-love, as our master has taught us.