If I am to imitate Jesus – to be a good reflection of who He is – I must know Him well. I must know how He talked, the habits He had – the company He kept, and the way He spent and prioritized His time. I must know how and even why Jesus loved and lived. I must know and understand His character and what made Him who and how He was.
I can only truly find these details in God’s Word, the depth of which is not meant to be examined here today but the crux of which is this – He was from God. God, who had loved the world so much that He gave Jesus, His only begotten Son, to suffer and die so that all who believed in Him might live. Everything He did and said, the way He lived and loved, how He responded, and the things He thought all hinged on Him being from God. Yes, He was Himself God, but He took on human form, making Himself also a man*, and it is that reference that I found myself examining in the passage I read today from John 13:1-17.
Just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end 2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that he should betray Jesus. 3 Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself. 5 He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself.
6 Then he came to Simon Peter. Peter[n] said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You do not understand what I am doing now, but you will understand after these things.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus replied, “The one who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 (For Jesus knew the one who was going to betray him. For this reason he said, “Not every one of you is clean.”)
12 So when Jesus had washed their feet and put his outer clothing back on, he took his place at the table again and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly, for that is what I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example—you should do just as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the solemn truth, the slave is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent as a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you understand these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
His habits were Holy and Righteous – why? Because He was from God. He was found most often in the company of His disciples – but also – in the home and the company of sinners. Many questioned this, but we know it was simply and profoundly – because He was from God, sent to seek and save the lost. Because He was from God – He spent His time feeding the hungry, healing the sick, teaching the masses about the Kingdom of God, and communicating with the Father. He came to give life to the full – why – because He wanted us to be one with the Father just as He is. This oneness can only be experienced when we know God, which is precisely what Christ desired for all people – because He was from God.
Jesus wasn’t just their Lord and teacher. He was God Himself, yet, here we find Him, just before His imminent suffering and death, to have gotten up from the table and removing all hindrances prepared Himself outwardly to perform a ‘servant-like’ expression of His love. As Matthew Henry said, “He taught them the value of spiritual washing and the cleansing of the soul from the pollutions of sin,” and He did this through the lowly act of washing their feet. In preparation for His departure, it seems He wanted them to not only witness an act of selfless love but to be the recipients. So, Jesus gave them a very humble and passionately moving example of serving others from an attitude of love and humility instead of from a position or status. He did this throughout His ministry as an example of how we are to live and love and serve. He loved beyond who and what He was and knew He was entitled to*. Jesus lived and taught a love that served not self but others and spilled out in actions that proved His love was not only genuine but one that endures to the very end.
*Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy, 2 complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose. 3 Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. 4 Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. 5 You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, 6who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. 8 He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death —even death on a cross! Philippians 2:1-8