Do as I Have Done

KEY VERSE: “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” —John 13:15


WE WILL BE helped in our understanding of this scripture if we consider the circumstances under which it was said. From Luke’s account we find that there was contention among the disciples when our Lord gave this lesson in true humility. Just a few days before, the mother of James and John had said to him, “Grant that these, my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand and the other on the left” in thy kingdom.” (Matt. 20:21) This desire to be important seemingly had affected more than James and John, for Luke 22:24 reads: “There was also a strife among them which of them should be accounted the greatest.”

Because of the dusty roads of Palestine, and because of the open sandals which were worn then, it was customary upon the arrival of guests, for the householder to have a servant wash their feet as an act of respect and hospitality, and also to refresh the traveler.—Gen. 18:4

On the occasion of the Master’s washing the disciples’ feet the group was assembled in the ‘upper room’; no host was there to welcome them, no provision had been made to make them comfortable. Apparently this question of who should be accounted the greatest had developed: none of them was willing to humble himself and perform the task of washing the feet of the others, which was usually considered a menial service. So they ate the supper, contrary to usual custom without their feet having been washed. When the Master saw that none of the disciples was willing to wash the feet of the others, he did it.

Thus Jesus condemned the spirit of pride which had corrupted their fellowship, and taught them that if he, the Master, was willing to serve the lesser members of the Lord’s family, and to minister to their comfort in even the most menial way, they, as his followers, should be willing and glad to serve one another, also. The Master was not teaching the necessity to actually wash one another’s feet. Some believe that by this act our Lord instituted a ceremony to be performed by his followers, and so they ritually wash one another’s feet, but we do not share this view.

Our Master’s action not only rebuked their pride, but set an example for them and for us that should apply to every affair of life: namely, that as humble disciples we should always be ready to serve not only in great matters, but also in the little affairs of life. This washing of one another’s feet applies to every service, every kindness that we can render our brethren, especially along lines that will be of spiritual comfort and encouragement for, “he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.”—Matt. 23:11

In these words the Master was instructing his disciples that they should not be ambitious to rule—that he desired as his followers those who had more of his spirit of humility and service. If any man were to exalt himself, they were to have correspondingly a lower esteem for him; for “he that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” The Lord will send the experiences which will exalt or abase, and it is for us to show our appreciation where we see the right principles in operation. Whoever manifests more of the spirit of Christ is to be highest in our esteem. Whoever has less of the spirit of Christ is to be lower in our esteem. These characteristics are to be quietly observed by us.

Today there is no need for the custom of the washing of feet. But the lesson of the spirit of humility which our Master taught by washing his disciples’ feet at a time when this service meant so much, should still be heeded by every follower of the Lord Jesus.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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