When Washing Feet Is More than Washing Feet



October 15, 2020

John 13:1-5

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.


Why so much detail here?

so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Why couldn’t John have just said, “He washed his disciples feet”? Would that not have been enough? Apparently not.

John wanted us to see something. Actually, I am convinced he wanted us to “behold” something. I think the Holy Spirit inspired John to give this account in such detail because he wanted us to see the exquisite nature of extraordinary love poured into the lowliest, ordinary, undignified act of service.

It has me asking myself, Does anything I do for another person come anywhere close to this exquisite nature of extraordinary love poured into the lowliest, ordinary, undignified act of service? Further, is there anything I have ever done, great or small, that would merit this granular level of description? It’s just so easy to get caught up in the undertow of oughts and shoulds and duty-bound obligatory service. On the other hand, it’s easy to be sucked into the seduction of wanting to do something extraordinary and grandiose. What slays me about this story is the way Jesus takes the most menial ordinary and unmentionable act of service and fills it with such love that two thousand years later we still can’t get over it.

I think this must have been something of what Mother Teresa meant when she said, “We can do no great things—only small things with great love.”

The good news is that these opportunities present themselves every single day.


Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who takes an unmentionable and undignified act of service and makes it something we can’t stop speaking of. Lead me in this way of living today. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.


1. Why such detail in this description? What’s your take?

2. How do you observe the difference between duty-bound service and love-empowered service?

3. What holds you back from pouring your very best into the most menial and ordinary acts?

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For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt


Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.


  1. 1. I think that the level of detail given is done so to show that sometimes humbling ourselves is a process. Not that Jesus needed to go through the process, but he went through process to show us what is necessary and that it is possible.

    2. Duty-bound service is ticking all the right boxes. Love-empowered service operates with no agenda, and comes from a place (more specifically, the person of the Holy Spirit) we forget that we have access to, and does things for others we had no idea we were capable of.

    3. Hhhmmm…Maybe a fear of failure, or a fear of being asked to do more, and what that might look like.