“Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:13-17).
The word “Master” is translated from the Greek word didaskalos which means teacher. The word “Lord” is translated from the Greek word kyrios and is a title of honor which servants greet their master; it is also the title given to God, the Messiah. Today we tend to call Him by His given name, Jesus, or some prefer to call Him, Yeshua, but there is no record in the gospels that any of the disciples ever referred to their Master and Lord by His given name prior to His resurrection.
Oddly enough in the gospels He is only called Jesus by demons and His enemies. It isn’t wrong to call Him Jesus, but we must never forget that He is our teacher and the Messiah.
When Jesus spoke the above words, He and His disciples had just finished a meal together. Actually it was the final meal they would share before His crucifixion. After the meal, Jesus did a surprising thing. He got up and laid aside his garments (this would have been the outer covering), girded Himself with a towel, then poured water into a basin. Once the preparation was done He began to wash the feet of His disciples.
First He got up. It was customary for a rabbi to read Scripture while standing; Jesus was not reading Scripture, but He was demonstrating Scripture. He was demonstrating humility. Usually the lowest of servants were the ones who washed the feet, not the Master or Lord. The basin was there, the water was there, and the towel was there so it should have been the disciple’s place to wash the feet of their Master and Lord.
All twelve of the disciples—the men who followed Him—were present, and all twelve had their feet washed by their Master and Lord. He knew each one of them well. He knew their strengths and their weak points. James and John were there. At one point as they followed Him they unabashedly came to Him with a request.
“And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire” (Mark 10:35).
No humility there! It sounds like the “name it and claim it” heresy. They wanted their Master to grant that they would sit on either side of Him in glory.
“But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:38).
They thought they could, but they had no idea what trials they would face in the future. Jesus called these two brothers “Sons of Thunder” and we can only imagine how they earned that moniker. Was it because they wanted to call fire down from heaven on the Samaritans, or possibly because they bickered about who was the greatest among them?
In time they would be sorely tested. James would be killed upon Herod’s orders. John would later write one of the gospel accounts as well as three letters. He would be imprisoned at times, but at the cross Jesus gave him the responsibility of looking after Mary and later he was given Revelation. The disciples had lots to learn, but they did learn their lessons well and did serve their Master. Thomas was there. One day word had come to them that Jesus’ friend, Lazarus, was dying. Jesus decided that He would go to Bethany, a town about two miles from Jerusalem to see him.
“His disciples said Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?” John 11:8.
That was exactly what their Master planned to do:
“Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).
Thomas was ready for anything, but not humble enough to wash his Master’s feet. After Christ was crucified the disciples were afraid that they would be the next ones to be crucified. They were gathered together in a closed room when Jesus entered, but Thomas had not been with them. When he heard of the marvelous appearing he doubted the truth of it.
He said “…Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).
Eight days later he was given that chance. Jesus once again appeared to them and told Thomas to see His hands and thrust his hand into His side. How did Thomas react?
“And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
Had Thomas truly understood who was washing his feet, he would have made this declaration sooner.
Peter was also there. Brash and outspoken, it was always Peter who rushed to say the wrong thing.
“Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet” (John 13:8a).
As always he missed the point. It is Jesus who cleanses us from our sin. Unless we allow this cleansing to happen we will have no part with Jesus, and that is what Jesus told Peter. That’s when Peter’s enthusiasm kicked in again:
“Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head” (John 13:9).
Peter wanted it all, and then some. It would be Peter who swore to stand by his Master and Lord no matter what happened, but he would deny knowing Him three times later that night after Jesus’ arrest. His Master and Lord knew it would happen and loved him in spite of his failures. He knew Peter’s failures but also knew the man he would become.
Peter would become a leader in that first century group of believers, he would be arrested many times because of his faith and he, too, would eventually be crucified for serving Christ and not denying Him. Yet, on that day it was Jesus who washed the feet of Peter who would soon deny knowing Him.
“So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?” (John 13:12).
Though a rabbi would stand to read Scripture he would sit down to teach. It was time to teach and to explain the reason for washing their feet. Jesus explained to them that He, the One who they should have honored by washing His feet, had in fact humbly washed their feet as the lowest servant would have done. The example to them, and to us, is that we need to be humble toward others and not filled with pride.
“A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit” (Proverbs 29:23.
Judas Iscariot was one who had been among the disciples all along. He has been entrusted with their money, saw the many miracles of Jesus, heard His teachings, and yet was not truly a part of them. Like many people today he was an “in name only” follower of Christ. Jesus knew that it would be Judas who would betray Him, yet He washed his feet.
“When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me” (John 13:21).
Jesus gave Him every chance to turn from his evil intent, but by choice Judas kept on the path that led to destruction. Prophecy was fulfilled because of the betrayal, but Judas still made the choice. Yes, Jesus knew it was him:
“Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, ‘That thou doest, do quickly’” (John 13:26-27).
The time had come and Judas had to act. It was too late for him to turn back; Satan had entered into him. Judas would soon commit suicide because of his actions, but he did not repent or ask forgiveness. We all face choices, but we need to choose to follow Christ and not betray nor deny Him.
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:10).
Jesus gave us the example of how a Christian should live. It is an example of humility and serving others rather waiting to be served. He washed their feet, but He also willingly went to the cross for you and me. We call Him Lord, but is He really Lord of our life?
A Christian is to be humble and not prideful. How many so-called religious leaders live in luxury instead of following the example of our Master and Lord. He laid aside His garments and took on the role of a servant, He laid aside His deity and became a man to redeem mankind.
How many of us would treat a person who betrayed us humbly as Jesus treated Judas? The example to follow is that of our Master and Lord, not the example of the one who denied Him, or the one who gives lip service of being willing to die with Him but then doubts His resurrection, or the one who betrayed Him. How often do we call ourselves His follower, yet how often do we betray Him with our words, actions, or way of life?
Paul admonished the believers in Philippi:
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in the earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).
Christ left heaven and all its glory to step into this fallen world to be our example. He humbled Himself because He loves His creation. Humble yourself because you love Him.
Is He your Master and Lord? If so, treat Him as such. Serve Him humbly as you humbly serve others.
God bless you all,