An unexpected example
Prior to Jesus’ death on the cross, we often find His disciples in an ego-driven discussion, debating which one of them was going to be “the greatest” in Jesus’ kingdom. On His last night, Jesus gave them a powerful example of what a “great” leader does.
John 13:1, 4-5
Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end…So He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself. Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him.
I’m certain you could have heard a pin drop. The normal hustle and bustle of conversation and movement as 13 guys reclined at a low table to eat the Passover meal would have come to a standstill when Jesus picked up the basin and the towel.
Does your state’s Governor handle coat check duty at the annual Governor’s ball? Does your company’s CEO shine your shoes at the annual budgeting meeting? Of course not. So why would the Messiah – at the remembrance meal that foretold His coming – wash the filthy, sweaty, gnarled feet of twelve grown men, all of whom were subordinate to Him?
When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined again and said to them,
“Do you know what I have done for you? You call Me Teacher and Lord. This is well said, for I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.”
“I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
The disciples had spent the last three years trying to learn everything they could from Jesus, in order that they might one day be just like Him. The one who ended up most like Jesus, would be “the greatest” disciple, with all the authority and privilege that would come with that distinction.
However, Jesus’ actions didn’t negate His title, position, or authority. Since the disciples had accepted Jesus as their Teacher and Lord, how could they refuse to humble themselves and serve in the menial tasks, like what He had just performed?
As a mentor, we too need to provide a tangible example to our protégé. Real life examples leave a mark like nothing else can. Verbal instruction is the foundation for learning and developing others, but they will never forget the example of the time you stepped down and washed their feet.