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Jesus: “Just as I have done, you also must do”

April 20, 2024

Daily Scripture

John 13:1, 4-5, 12-15

1 Before the Festival of Passover, Jesus knew that his time had come to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them fully.

4 So he got up from the table and took off his robes. Picking up a linen towel, he tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he was wearing.

12 After he washed the disciples’ feet, he put on his robes and returned to his place at the table. He said to them, “Do you know what I’ve done for you? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you speak correctly, because I am. 14 If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

The radical implications of the story in John 13 are easy to miss unless we understand what went on in the society Jesus lived in. “Washing others’ feet was normally a servile task. Dirt roads made feet dusty…. Disciples served teachers rather than the reverse, and the one act of service specifically not expected even of them was dealing with the master’s feet.” * Conditions are vastly different today. Most of us seldom walk on a dusty road with nothing but sandals on our feet. Usually today (though not always!) washing someone else’s feet is mainly symbolic and does little to actually make that person’s life better and more pleasant. But Jesus’ disciples, acutely conscious of their relative rank in the group, all shied away from doing a slave’s work and washing the others’ feet. So, Jesus unblushingly, radically did the slave’s work. Then he pointedly told his status-conscious disciples, “I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do.”

  • Pastor Hamilton said, “The story in John 13 encourages us to ask this question: Are you—am I—worried about who appears to be the greatest, or are we focused on humbly serving others?” ** What’s your answer? How has it changed over time? Later that night Jesus prayed for his followers and said they “don’t belong to this world” any more than he did (cf. John 17:14). In what ways are you most attentive to this world’s values and interests? In what ways do you most sense your energy and focus shifting to God’s mission in this world and God’s offer of eternity beyond this world? In our baptism, as in Peter’s call to be an apostle, Jesus has washed us. Yet every day, we are “dragged through the dust,” just like the sandal-wearing disciples’ feet. What are some valuable real-life ways you can “wash the feet” of family members, neighbors, co-workers or other people?

Lord Jesus, this is a hard prayer to pray. But I mean it: teach me how to find my greatest glory in serving you and others in the ways you have equipped me to serve. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Carol Cartmill

Carol Cartmill

Carol Cartmill serves as Lead Director of Mission Ministries for Resurrection, A United Methodist Church. She provides leadership to mission programs that maximize the congregation’s involvement in life-changing ministry beyond the walls of the church, locally and across the globe. Carol applies her passion for equipping people for ministry, practical experience from working in a multi-location church setting, and an educational background in organizational management and leadership. She is married to Jim, mom to daughters Lauren and Kristin, and “Grammy” to Hayley, Eloise, and (newly arrived) Taylor James. In her free time, Carol enjoys traveling, spending time outdoors golfing or gardening, or indoors looking for inspiration on the Food Network.

Have you ever participated in a foot-washing service? I have on numerous occasions and it always, always makes me uncomfortable. I’m actually filled with dread when I see the towel and basin. I don’t want to wash someone else’s feet and I certainly don’t want anyone washing mine. So there, my secret is out. What is meant to be a meaningful exercise to help me learn a deeper spiritual truth takes me way out of my comfort zone. I think that’s the point.

What Jesus models in the washing of his disciples’ feet is so antithetical to the way our world operates and what many people value. This was also true of the time in which this event takes place. The world was, and continues to be, filled with those who jockey for power and control when what is really needed is more servanthood and love. Jesus turns the power model upside down and gives us a tangible way to really change the world for the better.

So why did Jesus choose as one of his final acts before his arrest and crucifixion to take on the role of a servant? We need to consider the context in which this event is taking place to grasp how radical a display of servanthood this really was. As the rabbi and teacher, Jesus did the unthinkable and I’m confident the disciples were thrown off by what was taking place. Jesus then instructs the disciples to do likewise. This was not what they had in mind when they were busy arguing who was the greatest among them!

My work at Resurrection has led me to places around the world where people feel left behind and forgotten. Not only do they not have access to power and control, but they also often lack opportunity to change their circumstances. I’m proud of the way so many of you come alongside to help level the playing field by offering hope through the mission projects you support with your time, talents and financial gifts. Without judgment or a feeling of superiority, you demonstrate servanthood. Whether it’s serving a meal to people experiencing homelessness in a Kansas City park, or supporting education for children around the world, you do so with a generosity of spirit and an attitude of humility. As Jesus has done, you are also doing.

Thankfully, Jesus is less concerned with my comfort level in participating in a foot-washing than he is with how I’m demonstrating his love and light to the people around me. I want to continue to grow in my practice of servanthood, in whatever form it takes. So, let’s pray together boldly, “Jesus, help me to be more like you!”


© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Zondervan, NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (pp. 9296-9297). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
** Adam Hamilton, John: The Gospel of Light and Life. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015, p. 96.