Even after three years of living with Jesus day in and day out, His disciples still had much to learn about the true meaning of love.
So, on the final night of His life on earth, Jesus taught them one more lesson. Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. What a powerful, memorable, and ultimately life-changing lesson.
It’s a lesson we all need to learn as well if we want to keep love alive.
You probably know that in Bible times, everyone wore sandals. Because the streets were dirt, good hospitality meant that when a guest arrived at your home, you—or a servant, if you had one—would offer to wash and dry your guest’s dusty feet. It was a humble job. If you had more than one servant, it went to the lowest one.
For their last supper together, Jesus told His disciples to go to a room He had made arrangements for. It’s interesting to note that none of the four Gospels mention that any of the disciples humbled themselves to wash Jesus’s feet when He arrived.
Yet Jesus “loved them to the end” (John 13:1). He knew He was going to die the next day and He had one final act of love (apart from voluntarily going to the cross and dying for us) to model for them. What was it?
Taking on the role of the lowly servant, Jesus got a basin, poured water into it, and began to wash 12 pairs of dirty, calloused feet. They included the set belonging to Judas, who planned to betray Him that night. Then Jesus said,
“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, 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. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:14-16).
Jesus washed his disciples’ feet; his gesture was an example—of what? The kind of love we are called to show others.
It was more than an example, though. It was—it is—a command. In the same passage the Savior Himself said,
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
Read those verses again slowly. As Jesus loved, so we are to love. And by doing so, the world will see that we are His followers and that our love for Him is alive and active.
Thus, if you’re married, you can apply your service of love to your spouse, regardless of whether they say thank you. If you’re a parent, serving the needs of your children—even when you don’t feel like it—is loving them. Tending to the needs of your parents, your siblings, your extended family, your community, means loving them as Jesus Christ would.
Jesus doesn’t promise that practicing this sort of love is going to make you feel good, although it probably will. He doesn’t ask you to love this way so you look like an outstanding Christian man or woman, although you likely will.
No. We are called to love one another as our Master loves: to serve, to sacrifice, to show the world that Christ is alive in our lives.
If you want your life to reflect Jesus’ example, check out these resources with practical teaching and tools on how to keep love alive each and every day.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip