BEFORE the Passover Feast began, Jesus knew (was fully aware) that the time had come for Him to leave this world and return to the Father. And as He had loved those who were His own in the world, He loved them to the last and]to the highest degree. . . .took off His garments, and taking a [servant’s] towel, He fastened it around His waist (John 13:1,4, Amplified).
Jesus was fully aware of who He was in God, where He was from, and where He was going. As such, He was not serving His disciples while He waited for God to bring Him into His “real” ministry. He didn’t wash feet as a way of passing the time before He got on with His studies at Seminary or waited for His first call to pastor a church. Those are the things I would do. Instead, service was at the heart of the life Jesus laid down for His friends.
What challenges me most about this episode is the fact that Jesus gave credibility and integrity to what He did because of who He was, while most of us are inclined to get that backwards. We have the tendency to define who we are by what we do. For example, if you go to any gathering or social event and meet somebody new, watch how long it takes for one of you to ask, “So, what do you do for a living?” Most of us define and categorize ourselves not by who we are in God, but by what we do in life. But in Luke 9:18-20, Jesus did not ask His disciples, “What do the crowds say I do?”, but “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
We must all ask a similar question: “Who does God say that I am?” Jesus knew the answer, and then He served. And when we know the answer to who we are in God, then we, too, will make service a priority in our lives.
The problem is that most of us would rather serve in a more glorious way than just washing feet. We could obey the call of Jesus to deny our mother and father and house and land and take up our cross and follow Him if we knew that Christianity Today was going to write an article about our martyrdom. There is something just a bit selfish and vain in doing the radical for Jesus. I know, for I felt the same way when I left everything in California and, as an Assemblies of God minister, joined a monastery in Arkansas. Richard Foster, in Celebration of Discipline, says, “Radical self-denial gives the feel of adventure [but] service banishes us to the mundane, the ordinary, the trivial. . . . Therefore the spiritual authority of Jesus is an authority not found in a position or a title, but in a towel.”
So, until the day arrives that God requires my presence in Heaven, I’m learning to take every opportunity to give my life to others as Jesus is my example – even if it means starting with a towel.