Tuesday March 3 2020

Poured Out

When his death was imminent, Jesus revealed what he prized most. 

Jesus gathered some of his closest students in the Upper Room in Jerusalem to share a meal with them. Jesus “knew the hour had come for him to leave this world” (John 13:1); the following day he would be nailed to a cross. On this last night, when death was imminent, Jesus revealed what he prized most: servanthood. 

Imagine the dilemma when, upon entering the Upper Room in Jerusalem to share the Passover meal with Jesus that evening, they discovered that there was no servant to wash their feet. To understand the significance of this omission, you need to know that the roads of ancient Palestine were not paved, so people’s bare or sandalled feet became quite dusty. Donkeys, stray dogs, and other animals traveled the same roads. What’s more, homes in ancient Palestine did no have modern toilets, so people spilled their waste into the streets. Hence travellers’ feet also became soiled with animal and human excrement. Foot washing was a necessity, but it was considered such a menial task that Jewish households assigned the duty to a Gentile slave, woman, or child. 

Partway through the evening meal, Jesus, whom the disciples called “master”, suddenly removed his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist. He poured water into a basin, and began to wash his disciples’ feet, and then dried them with a towel (John 13:4). Everyone was shocked, and Simon Peter exclaimed, “You shall never wash my feet” (v8). Jesus’ act was unprecedented – there is no record in antiquity of a rabbi stooping to wash the feet of his students. In fact, such action would have been considered “unclean” according to the Jewish purity code and therefore not permissible. 

In this moving portrait, we see that the greatest person of all time revealed God’s true character by humbly serving those around him. In Philippians 2, we read that although Jesus was “in very nature God”, he did not use his status as God for his own selfish advantage. Instead, he poured himself out to serve others. Some translations render the Greek, “Jesus emptied himself” (vs 7) but the most accurate translation emphasises that “Jesus poured himself out” like water to serve others. This is a quintessential image for the living God. The gods of the ancient world were capricious, vindictive, and self-serving , but the one true God of the universe – the God we see in Jesus Christ – serves. 

If, like Jesus, we feel a sense of power because we know we are loved by our Father, and we know where we have come from and where we are going, then we live a truly great life – one in which we humbly serve one another and help to make our world a place that reflects the values of our Servant-King.  – Ken Shigemasu

Consider how extreme this act was to the first-century disciples, how does it challenge you?