Jesus Washes His Disciples\’ Feet | A Lesson on Humility: from my forthcoming book #GoforIt!

We all have gifts. We work hard and develop into individuals of distinction. But, if we are not careful, we could become victims of distinction. Distinctions become problems when we allow our individuality to become offensive to community. Solomon’s wisdom teaches us, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)! It takes humility, moreover, for one to accept the rewards of community over her or his own self-perceived smarts.

Community demands that we submit to others in ways that challenge our ideas and even at times suppress our gifts. But, to suppress our gifts does not mean the same as to oppress gifts. To suppress gifts or ideas means the same as the horse trainer when she pulls on an eager horse to run his way. The purpose is to contain the energy and redirect it in a constructive manner. In like manner, the type of suppression of gifts that is healthy helps to give equilibrium to our gifts or ideas for effective execution when appropriate. To oppress gifts or ideas is quite different. Oppression is a means of devaluing gifts and ideas, suggesting that they are of no use.

We have to learn what it means to serve others, to work together, arranging our gifts and ideas in a constructive manner to insure communal productivity. If we don’t suppress them inappropriately to communal living, we veer into individualism. Individualistic lifestyles begin and end in self-centeredness.

This principle applies in several areas of communal living and working but also it applies in marriage. Sometimes, I have to remind myself. I was 34 when I got married, and I had lived alone for many years. I had developed lots of traditions. Now, I am married and my wife has something to offer. She knows some things that I don’t know. She has some good ideas too. But if I am too steeped in individualistic arrogance, I will miss out on some important and healthy opportunity for mutual growth.

The night that Judas betrayed Jesus to be crucified was eye opening in so many ways (See John 13:2–17). One particular way that is relevant here is when after dinner Jesus took the towel and washed His disciples’ feet. John 13:3 points out that Jesus bows down on the floor to wash their feet, “knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God.” In other words, Jesus was assured of whom He is and in what divine gifts that he possess. He knew all along that He is God. This truth did not just occur to Him after the resurrection. Yet, Jesus demonstrated a universal truth. There is no divine exaltation except for through submitting our gifts at the feet of others to serve them, even those who clearly do not have our best interest at heart. Yes, Jesus even washed Judas’ feet, knowing that He was going to turn on Him.

When Jesus got up from washing each of His disciples’ feet, He commissioned them to do as He had done. An important lesson here is that Jesus wants us to rise to our full potential. He wants us to succeed in all of our God-ordained endeavors. Yet, just as Jesus did, we must remain at the service of others. In fact, all of our success is really about serving others. It is in the community of mutual bowing, or self-emptying, to serve that we elevate to everything that God has for us.

Dr. Antipas L. Harris
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