At the funeral of President Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Sr., recounted a story that showed Reagan's greatness. Bush recalled a time when he came to visit Reagan in the hospital and found the President down on his knees wiping up a spill. When Bush asked Reagan why he was doing that, Reagan explained that he did not want anyone to fall or for the nurse to get into trouble. Reagan could have pushed a button and had someone else wipe up the spill. However, that isn’t how servants think. That isn’t what servants do.
As great of an example of humility, love, and service as this is, there is one that is even greater. The Apostle John records an occasion when Jesus, the Creator of the Universe, got down on his knees and washed the dirty feet of the disciples. “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded” (John 13:1-5).
One of the last acts that Jesus did on the earth was wash dirty feet. This small act of service was soon to be followed by a greater and more costly one - dying as our Passover lamb. Jesus could have commanded one of the disciples to wash His feet and the feet of the others. He was certainly worthy of such service and obedience. However, that wasn’t how His mind worked.
Over objections, Jesus kept washing. Why did He do that? He did that because He did not want the to get into trouble. They were evidently arguing about who was the greatest. They were seeking positions of power and glory. We know that this had been an ongoing issue with them. On an earlier occasion, Mark records, “Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:33-35).
By admonition and action, Jesus taught them to serve. We read, “So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:12-17).