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. John 13:3-5
One of the most significant acts of Jesus before His death and resurrection was the washing of the feet of His disciples. This act is pregnant with theological and spiritual implications. It is the defining act that sets Jesus apart and well above any other religious leaders in human history.
In the ancient Near East, “foot-washing was often the chore of female slaves and was considered lowly work. However, if a free person washed the feet of others willingly, it was a great expression of friendship.” At times, the wife of the host would wash the feet of the guests as an expression of hospitality.
When Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist as He prepared to wash His disciples’ feet, He was doing the work of the lowliest servants in His historical context. The disciples were indeed stunned at this act of extravagant humility that Jesus, their Lord, and Master, should wash the feet of His disciples. Peter argued vehemently against it (John 13:6-8). But Jesus rebuked him graciously and explained to Him why He was washing their feet.
This washing of the feet was done presumably one day before the crucifixion of Jesus—which would be holy Thursday. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet to indicate they had received the full cleansing of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins by Jesus Christ. Thus, this was an act of spiritual purification and consecration.
More importantly, however, the washing of the feet was an expression of extravagant humility that Jesus wanted His disciples to learn and demonstrate to one another as the foundation of their discipleship work. This was the most poignant way of teaching them that “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave (Matthew 20:26).”
Extravagant humility is about surrendering our pride, agenda, inflated ego, or selfish desires to the Lord so we can do Jesus’ great commission work with meekness to the glory of God. The Bible exhorts us “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your interests but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).”
Cultivating a spirit of extravagant humility compels us to stop focusing on our accomplishments. It challenges us not to seek recognition for personal achievements, but to redirect all accolades to God and those He has blessed us to serve or lead. Extravagant humility is about bearing one another’s flaws with love and gentleness. It is exercising conferred leadership with grace and compassion.
This world would have us believe that humility is a weakness. But Jesus taught His disciples that humility is an expression of divine strength. We are to clothe ourselves with humility toward one another, because “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).”
Questions for Personal Reflection
What lesson have your learned from Jesus washing the disciples' feet
Why is humility so important for spiritual maturity?
Prayer- Blessed Lord, please help me to humble myself at your mighty hand so you can use me to your glory. Remove from me all selfish desires, ungodly pride, and desire for personal recognition so I can serve your people with the heart of Christ.