“Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” John 13:8-15
The verses we have now read conclude the story of our Lord’s washing the feet of his disciples the night before he was crucified. The wonderful condescension of Christ in doing such a menial action can hardly fail to strike any reader. We should notice the plain practical lesson which lies upon its surface. The Lord says, “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”
Humility is evidently one part of the lesson. If the only begotten Son of God, the King of kings, did not think it beneath him to do the humblest work of a servant, there is nothing which his disciples should think themselves too great or too good to do. No sin is so offensive to God and so injurious to the soul as pride. No grace is so commended as humility. It would be well for the Church if this very simple truth was more remembered and real humility was not so rare. Perhaps there is no sight so displeasing in God’s eyes as a self-conceited, self-satisfied, self-contented, stuck-up professor of religion.
Love is manifestly the other part of the great practical lesson. Our Lord would have us love others so much that we should delight to do anything that can promote their happiness. We ought to rejoice in doing kindnesses, even in little things. We ought to count it a pleasure to lessen sorrow and multiply joy, even when it costs us some self-sacrifice and self-denial. We ought to love every child of Adam so well, that if in the least trifle we can do anything to make him more happy and comfortable, we should be glad to do it. This was the mind of the Master, and this the ruling principle of his conduct upon earth.
The lesson before us may seem a very simple one; but its importance can never be overrated. Humility and love are precisely the graces which the men of the world can understand, if they do not comprehend doctrines. They are graces about which there is no mystery, and they are within reach of all classes. The poorest and most ignorant Christian can find occasion each day for practicing love and humility. If we would do good to the world, and if we would make our calling and election sure, let us never forget our Lord’s example in this passage. Like him, let us be humble and loving toward all. – J.C. RYLE