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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Zechariah 13:9 “This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’ ”
Zechariah 9:9, 10 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.
Ezra 3:12, 13 But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.
Daniel 2:30 “As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.”