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Day Thirteen Devotional

Woman-on-PhoneWhen he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?” . . . You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and are right, for so I am. If I then, as 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 to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”  - John 13:12-17

We are more plugged in than ever before. Admittedly, that’s a rather cheesy, if not altogether unhelpful platitude (as an aside, in the time it took to type that sentence, a dozen of your apps became outdated). But we can access more information, at greater speeds, than ever before. And, with the touch of a few buttons, we can share that information with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Everyone has a voice and the whole world is a stage.

The early Christian writer Tertullian famously asked, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” I suppose one could similarly ask, what does Jerusalem have to do with Silicon Valley? Or, what do the dirty feet of first-century Palestinians have to do with the gloss of Google?  The answer, I think, is: everything.

The text of John 13 powerfully illustrates what humble, servant leadership should look like. Now, this story doesn’t take place in a world with smartphones or tablets; there are no tennis shoes, or anything we would call sanitary footwear. It was a world without concrete walkways and paved roads. It was, however, a world in which dirt, mud, and trash met with bare feet and well-worn sandals. It was a world in which foot washing was generally regarded as a task too menial even for Hebrew slaves. It involved washing off not just dust and dirt but also the remains of human excrement and animal waste. What makes John’s account all the more extraordinary is that there is no parallel in ancient literature for a person of superior authority and status voluntarily washing the feet of someone of inferior status. But here, we have a divine figure, not just any divine figure, but the Son of God, God’s very Word, invested with authority and power over the entire universe, assuming a task too menial for even a slave.

The washing points to Jesus’ service for the disciples, especially in his providing forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit – themes that emerge later in the Johannine discourse. After washing their feet, Jesus asks if they know what he has done? He then immediately answers his own question, and verses 14-17 drive home the answer in different ways. Jesus has been called Teacher and Lord throughout the Gospel, and Jesus acknowledges the appropriateness of these titles. Then, he makes a startling correlation between his actions and the identity to which these titles point. If he, as their Lord and Teacher, can stoop to wash feet, then so should they! In verse 15, he makes the point crystal clear. He has given them an example, and just as he has done, so should they.

The example isn’t merely an act of humble service, as some interpret the significance of the event. Jesus isn’t merely telling his disciples to serve one another in humility rather than seeking preeminence. The example is one of self-sacrifice even up to the point of death, and Jesus is telling the disciples to be willing to lay down their lives for one another.

I encourage you today to consider how you represent Christ when you are “plugged in.” Make the beauty of the Gospel evident and compelling when you tweet. Make the love of Christ supreme for all to see when you Snapchat. When we pick up our tablets or iPhones, when we Instagram, let’s think back to a disconnected world of dirty feet and nasty roads. And, we must then remember that our Lord and Savior, invested with full authority and power over the entire universe, stooped down and humbled himself in loving service to the other.

Matt Woodard
Ministry Director at Brown

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