Acting as a Servant

KEY VERSE: “He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.” —Luke 22:26


TODAY’S LESSON FINDS Jesus and his apostles gathered in the “upper room” (Luke 22:12) for the Feast of the Passover. It was the night before the crucifixion. The Master’s public ministry was virtually finished—and yet he used all the opportunities available to continue bearing witness to the truth. When asked if he were the Son of God, Jesus replied, “Thou hast said.” (Luke 22:7) When Pilate asked him if he were a king, Jesus said, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world.”—John 18:37

In the upper room Jesus ministered to his apostles, further preparing them to be his ambassadors in the earth after he returned to heaven. His ministry that night, in connection with the feast of the Passover, is recorded in John, chapters 13 through 17. Chapter 17 contains his closing prayer, in which he said, “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.” (John 17:9,10) This does not imply that Jesus was not interested in the world. Indeed, he was soon to die that all the world might have life, but for these last few hours his special love and interest were centered on his apostles, whom the Heavenly Father had given to him.

Jesus knew that “the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God.” (John 13:3 It was in the full knowledge of the high position he occupied in the plan of God that Jesus “riseth from supper and laid aside his [outer] garments: and took a towel, and girded himself.”—vs. 4

Then Jesus poured water into a basin, “and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.” (vs. 5) In view of Jesus’ exalted place in the Father’s plan, this was a very significant service for him to render. In that area, feet-washing was an essential, for the comfort of guests. Ordinarily the service was rendered by servants. Smith’s Bible Dictionary states, “It was a yet more complimentary act, betokening equally humility and affection, if the host actually performed the office for his guest.”

Jesus was the host that evening in the upper room, and by his act of washing his disciples’ feet he testified of his love for them, and that he was their servant as well as their Lord. Peter at first refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet. Then Jesus said to him, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” To this Peter replied, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” (John 13:8,9) Jesus said, “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet.” Scholars say that guests of that day and area, after being on a long journey, were given a bath by a slave or servant, and then, when they sat down for the meal, their feet were washed. Jesus may have been referring to this custom, and his statement may have indicated that Peter had already observed the rules of bodily cleanliness, hence needed only that his feet be washed.

We need not look for some hidden meaning or symbol in feet-washing, for Jesus himself explained his purpose in thus serving his disciples. He said, “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”—John 13:14,15

On another occasion Jesus said to his disciples, “The son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28); and again, “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matt. 23:11) Our Key Verse sets forth this same principle. Jesus was indeed greater than his disciples. In the upper room one of them should have washed his feet. “But,” as the Master said, “I am among you as he that serveth.” (Luke 22:27) This is what made Jesus truly great; and this has been the sign of true greatness among his followers throughout the entire age since then.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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