Servant God

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. (John 13:6-17)

No one likes to get in trouble. Peter always wanted to do the right thing. In fact, one could say that his heart was always in the right place. But he was impetuous and he was often confused.

Foot washing was a common custom in Jesus’ day. When people traveled, they usually walked. Dusty or muddy roads, combined with open-toed sandals meant that when you entered someone’s home, it was a good idea to rinse off the dirty feet rather than track all that filth through the house. Such a task was usually left to the servant. Certainly one would never expect a rabbi to be washing his disciple’s feet. That’s why Peter reacts so negatively to Jesus’ offer at first.

Jesus washed his disciple’s feet to make a spiritual and relational point. Jesus proclaimed himself the servant God, a God who stooped to take care of his people, who cared more for their needs than for his status. Therefore, the disciples’ concern should not be for their status or place in society. Rather, their concern should be only about the needs of others. Just as Jesus had freely submitted to them, so they were to freely submit to each other.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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