Jesus Was No Stranger to Humble Service
Written by Molly Lorden
“Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.”
Jesus was no stranger to humble service. Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus continually putting aside his privilege to care for others out of humility. When tempted by Satan in the wilderness, he put aside his ability to be rescued by angels, and to turn rocks into food (Luke 4:1-13). Immediately after this, he returned to Galilee to begin his earthly ministry, proclaiming the good news to the least of these, and healing the sick. Once again, he shows us what it means to humbly serve. Knowing who he is, and what was to happen, his response was to serve his disciples, even the one who would deny him only hours later. He humbled himself to the status of the lowest servant in the house, washing the grime and muck from a day of walking off of the disciples’ feet.
I love the detail used in this passage. John takes the time to tell us how methodically Jesus went about serving his disciples. Step-by-step: he got up, took off his outer robe, tied a towel around himself, poured water into a basin, and then began to wash. While this may seem like an obvious progression, we need to be careful not to miss the importance of these details. Jesus saw something that needed to be done, and did it. He did not ask someone else to do it. He didn’t ask if it was alright. He simply started serving. When he was done, he commanded his disciples to do the same for others.
Many Jewish, Muslim, and Christian leaders humbly serve their communities daily in the Holy Land. These religious leaders see needs in their communities, and take steps to fill them. Kamil Shehade filled the need in his community by beginning the House of Grace in Haifa. As a Christian, Kamil began this home for ex-prisoners who were having difficulty readjusting to society after being released from prison. Kamil and his wife, Agnes, simply began inviting released prisoners into their humble home where they provided a warm, informal, and supportive environment. They encouraged their guests to reevaluate their lives and start living up to their potential. These simple acts led to the establishment of the House of Grace, the first rehabilitation hostel for released prisoners in Israel. Kamil has since passed away, and his son Jamal now runs the House of Grace, carrying on this important work.
How are we, as Christians, called to set aside our privilege and humbly serve? After washing the disciples feet, Jesus said, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what 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 set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” (John 13: 12-20). Tonight, Christians around the world will wash one another’s feet. They do this in remembrance of the Last Supper, and as a way of following this command of Jesus. Foot washing is a beautiful ceremony observed by so many on Maundy Thursday. We are called to live in this posture of service the same way every day. In our day-to-day lives, where are needs we can help meet? How can we support those humbly serving in the Holy Land? Our answers may vary, but Jesus’ command is the same.
Help us to see the needs of those around us. As we encounter need in our communities, teach us to set aside our privilege and humbly serve. Strengthen the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian leaders in the Holy Land who are humbly serving their communities. Guide us as we support the work they are doing.
In your holy name we pray, Amen.
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Molly Lorden is the Church Engagement & Millennial Voices for Peace Intern at Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), and is currently studying toward a Master of Divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary.
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