Daily D – John 13:3
Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into his hands, that he had come from God, and that he was going back to God.
JOHN 13:3 (CSB)
- The Father had given everything into his hands.
- He had come from God.
- He was going back to God.
Knowing this made possible what happened next.
So he got up from supper, laid aside his outer clothing, took a towel, and tied it around himself. Next, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around him (verses 4 and 5).
Luke tells us that it was in this context that a dispute arose among them over who should be considered the greatest. We can only assume they meant among one another since Jesus was in the room. We can also assume that none of them yielded the firm opinion he held about himself that it was he who was, in fact, The Greatest.
Sure, Peter was The Greatest when it came to impulsiveness. Yet impulsiveness is not the same thing as decisiveness. He was wrong at least half the time. James and John were out because there was anger that seethed within them that could lead to destructive tendencies (Luke 9:54). Mastering the tossing of lightning bolts sounds pretty cool unless they are tossed at you. (Trust me on this.)
Judas no doubt thought he was Top Dog. Who could manage money like him? After all, he supervised the expenditures for the whole team so that they had all they needed when they needed it even as he kept a commission for himself out of everything they received. It was only fair.
On around the table it went. We know this because of what did not happen. Footwashing was a common, everyday, menial task provided at every gathering. Yet no one was there in that upper room to take care of twenty-six dirty feet. And while any owner of two feet in the room would have gladly washed Jesus’ feet, none of them would wash one another’s feet. That would take them out of the running for the title of The Greatest.
So it was that The Greatest stood, removed his outer clothing, took a towel, filled a basin, washed his disciples’ feet, and dried them with the towel.
As the Apostle Paul reflected on this event, he wrote, “Jesus existing in the form of God” assumed “the form of a servant.” Jesus went to his knees for his disciples when they would not do so for one another.
Perform a quick search of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and see how many times Jesus taught that greatness is about great service and not about great standing. Jesus showed them what he had been telling them. It was not the first time he had done so. It would not be the last.
Knowing that we belong to God and that nothing can separate us from his love (Romans 8:37-39) makes it possible for us to lay aside anything and everything that puffs up our pride so that we may serve even those who grumble against us or wish to step upon us on their own ascent to the top, whatever that means.
Knowing that we belong to God and that nothing can separate us from his love empowers us to look up from our knees to see the needs around us more clearly and to know what to do to meet those needs more completely.
Greatness is not about looking within. Greatness is about looking up.
Take a knee when you would prefer to take a pound of flesh.
Take a knee when you would prefer to declare your opinion.
Take a knee when you would rather take a stand.
If your idea about greatness does not include significant service, you have missed the point, you have missed the opportunity, you have missed the heart of Jesus who came from God, returned to God, and wants to take us with him if we will learn to kneel to who he is and to what he wants to accomplish through us.
Great leaders serve. So do great followers.
I will kneel in service so that others may see more of the greatness of Jesus and less of me.
Our Father, I kneel before you now. To whom will you send me to kneel to serve today? I will meet you at their feet. Amen.
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Leviticus 19:32-34 “Stand up in the presence of the elderly, and show respect for the aged. Fear your God. I am the Lord. “Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
Luke 6:27-31 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.”