In John 13:1-17, we read of Jesus, Son of God and Savior of the world, kneeling down on the very last night of his life to wash the dust from the feet of his disciples. What does this story tell us about the greatest leader the world has ever known?
In the first verse, John writes, “…he (Jesus) now showed them the full extent of his love.” This tells us at the root of Jesus’ gesture was an act of love. He deeply loved the men who helped him to make the Good News known and he wasn’t the least bit reluctant to demonstrate that love.
Foot washing was a task a servant would have been required to do, and it certainly would have been appropriate for one of the disciples to have washed Jesus’ feet. But it was the Messiah who condescended himself to perform the duty of a servant.
After he finished washing their feet, Jesus returned to his place at the table. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher,” he said, “have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” Jesus did not simply tell the disciples what he expected of them, he used himself as an example of what he expected.
Taking these points together, the demonstration of love, serving others, and being an example for others to follow, we arrive at the profound lesson Jesus taught in his act of foot washing. His lesson was that the love of God is revealed through the unselfish serving of one another with no trace of pride or position. We can take from this lesson that even
though there are positions of leadership within the family, church, workplace, and
community, the exercise of true leadership is to follow Jesus’ model of servanthood.