Jesus, instead of pointing others toward himself, pointed himself toward others. This was the antithesis of the mentality of the world. Even the disciples missed what he was trying to do. In John 13:6-8 Peter put his foot in his mouth.
[Jesus] came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."
"No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet."
Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."
Peter had a pecking-order mentality of value and ministry. Jesus, we wash your feet, and those under us wash our feet, and so on. Jesus blew a hole right in the middle of this mindset as he put himself at the bottom of the pecking-order. The most valuable (Jesus) became the least valuable (the servant), so that all people could know their true value. Jesus instructed his disciples to go and do likewise if they wanted to be great in his kingdom.
The Greatest in the Kingdom
Most of the disciples were drawing a blank as they watched the Lord of Glory wash their feet. God was doing something in their lives, but what was he trying to do through their lives? Was Jesus trying to give his disciples and all who would follow a secret weapon, one that would open the hearts of the masses to the gospel?
The old saying goes, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Jesus was leaving with his disciples a tool that would validate their words and penetrate the hearts of those they desired to reach. This was the last night Jesus had with his disciples, the final time before he was glorified to influence their thinking and actions. He forever etched an image on their minds and hearts, the impression of the Son of Man washing feet. He was teaching them the "power of the towel."
"Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Moses and Jesus instruct us. The answer is the kingdom-minded person who willingly takes on the lowly position of a servant and, together with Jesus, works to turn the world right side up.
Adapted from Ken Barnes, The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places: The Joy of Serving God in the Ordinary (Seattle: YWAM Publishing, 2011), 24-25, 58-60.
Copyright © 2011 by Christianity Today/ChristianBibleStudies.com. Click here for reprint information.