Serving One Another – John 13
Serving One Another – John 13
"If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them" (John 13:17).
The setting of this statement is Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. Such washing of dirty feet was a social necessity in the first century. Walking was their main method of travel. While some Roman roads were 'paved', most traveling was done on dusty dirt paths and streets. When they met, as did the disciples here, they did not sit at modern tables with their dirty feet safely hidden underneath their chairs; they reclined and their feet would have been al over the place. Dirty feet.
Hence, the social custom of washing feet at such gatherings for meals. Pick up almost any commentary on John or book on social customs of the first century, and you will see this explained. Usually, there is a reference to how 'demeaning' and 'low' the doing of this was considered. It fell upon the lowest of the servants. For example, Pillar NT Commentary states: "Peers did not wash one another’s feet, except very rarely and as a mark of great love. Some Jews insisted that Jewish slaves should not be required to wash the feet of others; this job should be reserved for Gentile slaves, or for women and children and pupils (Mekhilta § 1 on Ex. 21:2)".
Jesus, their master, knew that there was great tension here. The disciples had been arguing for some time about "who was the greatest". "He that is greatest among you is he that serves..." said Jesus. They heard, but had not learned this simple concept. They would rather eat with each other's dirty feet in their face than lower themselves to such a servant status. The others would surely 'think' that the one doing this was lower than the rest. It would seem to be an admission that the others were 'greater'. Such thinking came because they did not KNOW who they were. They were unsure of who really was the greatest. They didn't even know, though Jesus had told them several times, what the measuring stick was to determine greatness. They were prepared to eat with dirty feet.
Jesus knew who he was. He knew that washing their feet didn't change who he was. Such knowledge allowed him to freely do this. He washed their dirty feet.
Interestingly, he then asked if they understood what He had just done. Of course they did: he washed their feet. NO! He loved them by providing what they needed; he washed their dirty feet. He served them.
We laugh at and deride the apostles for their lack of perception and humility in this story. Yet, we suffer from the same spiritual blindness. We don't live in a world of dirty feet (although, in some parts of the world they do), so the opportunity to wash dirty feet simply doesn't present itself. We do live in a world where people have needs. What keeps us from serving one another? In a congregation of 150 people, there should not be a situation of need that is not being served by someone. Are we yet too proud, puffed up, and arrogant to do such 'menial service'?
Think again of the songs we sing: "Oh to be like Thee, blessed redeemer"; "Make me a servant"; etc. Thus the application: "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." Are you blessed? Whom did you serve today and what did you do?