1Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Look at those muddy feet in the image above! That reminds me of a day practicing football in the pouring rain when I was a freshman in high school. Just for fun, our coaches had us do tackling drills in a mud hole! Every inch of my practice uniform was caked in sloshy, mucky mud. I feel bad for whoever had to clean our practice gear that day. Whoever it was, their work was an act of service.
Sometimes we are called to do the dirty jobs of life in service to someone else. Living a kingdom of God life is not always pleasant or easy. Often we are called to bring light to some very dark situations. And other times we are called to do simple, but unenjoyable, tasks for others. I think of my time in the camp kitchen and dining room as a teenager at Camp Crestwood, scrubbing pots and mopping floors so that the middle school students could enjoy their week of camp. It was not fun, but someone had done it for me when I was in youth camp!
Jesus demonstrated the importance of service to one another as he stooped down to wash his disciples’ feet. This was a common job in that time period, but it was one reserved for the lowliest servant in the household. Jesus was setting an example for his disciples, but he was also revealing his heart. He loved his disciples, and there was no job too demeaning to do for them if it meant bringing them relief, peace, or grace. After all, Jesus was about to do an even greater work for them that was much more demanding than washing feet. If Jesus loved them enough to give his life for them, then he definitely loved them enough to perform this common courtesy for them – no matter how unappealing.
Our service communicates our love for others and is an affirmation of their sacred worth. When we serve others, we say to them, “You are important and there is no concern too big or too small that we cannot handle together.” This is what Jesus wanted the disciples to know. It was as if he were saying, “Look, we have a very difficult journey ahead. But if I can remember this small need of yours as we celebrate, just think of how attentive I will be when we find ourselves in danger.” Jesus’s care for us knows no boundary or limits.
How might you express this sacred worth and importance to someone through service? Who are the most difficult persons with the messiest needs? They need God, just like the rest of us. In fact, we might not realize how “dirty” our feet are – how greatly we are in need of the grace of someone else’s service. God’s love is communicated and received through acts of mercy, compassion, and service. How are you being called to act?
Write about a time that you participated in an act of service. Perhaps it was a mission trip, a regular in-community volunteer opportunity, or a random act of kindness. How did you feel as you prepared for that act of service? How did you feel after serving? How do you think the people receiving your act of service felt? As you process a meaningful time of service, think about how that example might set a pattern for your compassionate responses to others. In other words, what about that meaningful act of service would you want to duplicate in another context or setting? If you need some help with this, begin by completing this statement: I am called to serve others because _____________.
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
Cloud of Witnesses:
Are you familiar with the work of the United Methodist Committee on Relief? Better known as UMCOR, this group specializes in disaster relief. It is often said that UMCOR is the first to arrive and the last to leave when disaster strikes. Furthermore, UMCOR is on the ground providing aid in poverty-stricken nations. Sometimes this means they are there when disaster strikes (and the effects of disasters are often more severe in these countries, due to corruption and frail infrastructures). There are many ways to assist UMCOR in their works of service, from putting together kits of relief supplies, to volunteering at their Louisiana depot site (UMCOR Sager-Brown), to giving financially. If you would like to learn more about the amazing services UMCOR offers – and how you can help – visit their website today!
Listen to the song, Make Me A Servant written by Kelly Willard. You can purchase the Maranatha version here if you’d like. You can also find the song in The Faith We Sing songbook (#2176). As you listen and sing, ponder what it means to serve others in your context. What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Pray for God’s purifying grace to wash over our society and over ourselves this week. Ask God to remove those things that are not of God from our world. Just as Jesus washed the disciples, God can wash us clean of injustice. Remember as you pray these words of Paul from Ephesians 6:12: “our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” May God send the purifying rain of the Spirit upon us all.
Take some time to think about the different injustices in our world: hunger, poverty, lack of education, racism, oppression, inequality, etc. Picture what each of these unjust situations looks like as it plays out in the real world. Now notice which of these “pictures” stirs your heart and soul. What passions for righteousness and justice has God placed within you? These might be the areas in which God is calling you to serve. For instance, as I imagine these unjust situations, the picture of hunger stirs my heart and soul. God is calling me to serve the hungry – both physically and spiritually. What service passion is God stirring within you?
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- How have you been served by others?
- How have you served others?
- Where is God leading you into selfless service?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Who, within your sphere of influence, needs help this week? Sometimes we conceive of service in grandiose fashion, but service need not be extravagant to make a difference in someone’s life. Look around you this week and identify a small, but meaningful, way to serve someone you know. Does someone need their lawn mown? Does someone need to receive an encouraging note? Could you help someone with their chores? How might you serve in the small ways this week?
Breath Prayer: LORD God, give us a servant’s heart.