John 13 The Servant King
John tells us that Jesus has loved ‘his own’ disciples (v1), whom he had chosen to be with him. Jesus loved them, despite their sinfulness and failure to understand; there was a warmth in his heart towards them. He knows it all; he sees into the very blackest and bleakest corners of our hearts, and yet he loves us – not with a wishy-washy, luvvy-duvvy, pink and fluffy kind of love, but with a firm and resolute love, a stubborn love that is utterly committed to do us good, to bring us to himself, and make us like himself. He is determined to love us ‘to the end’, to show us the full extent of his love. Ultimately, that’s the cross. But here, just a day or so before his death, he does something astonishing.
He is at a meal with his disciples. Normally, there would be a slave there, who would have washed the feet of Jesus and the disciples. But there was no slave, so their feet hadn’t been washed. Jesus, their leader, who had said and done such amazing things, who had claimed and demonstrated a remarkable closeness with God himself – this mighty and amazing Jesus, stripped off his robe, wrapped a towel round his waist, and began to go round from one to another, washing and drying their feet; doing the job, not just of a servant, but of a slave.
Imagine Her Majesty the Queen leaves Sandringham one morning, and visits the poorest, most impoverished family in King’s Lynn; maybe a frail elderly person living alone, or a family from Eastern Europe, who can’t get work, can’t make head or tail of benefits system, and literally don’t know where their next meal’s coming from. There’s a knock on the door, and it’s that posh lady from Sandringham. She’s stopped off at Tesco on the way; she goes in, takes off her coat, puts on an apron, and cooks them a meal. She clears up afterwards, does the washing up, and then fills their cupboards with food, their wardrobe with clothes, and their bank account with money. Wouldn’t that be astonishing, amazing? It’s an inadequate illustration, but what Jesus does for his disciples here is even more astonishing and amazing. With all due respect to Her Majesty, Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and yet, in his love, he stoops to do the job of a slave.
If Jesus was ready to do this for us, to humble himself in this way and to give his life for those who are so unworthy and so undeserving, what room is there for pride, arrogance, selfishness, self-centredness? None at all – we are to follow in his footsteps, to follow his example (v13); to give ourselves firstly to him, our Lord, and then to one another in humble service, not thinking of ourselves, our rights, our pride, but thinking of him, and following his example.