I was raised in local churches that practiced quarterly 'washing of the saints feet' services. At these services, the men would sit in rows facing each other while the women would do the same, each away from each other out of respect. The deacons of the church would supply towels and a pan of water. One individual would "gird" himself with a towel, bend down and begin washing the feet of the person sitting in front of him. Once finished, the person would conclude by drying their feet. The pan was then passed down to the next two members. This service was seeking to model the passage found in John 13:1-20 where Jesus washed the feet of His disciples.
I'm not seeking to debate whether John 13:1-20 is speaking of literally washing the feet of another or was simply an illustration given by Jesus. However, one aspect of John 13:1-20 that is difficult to deny is the issue of 'Servant-Leadership' found in this passage. What can we learn from this passage:
1. Jesus knew the end was near. John writes in John 13:1, "Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world..." Jesus knew in the coming days He would die on the cross, come back to life again and then return to the Father. He knew His time with His disciples was coming to a close, so He wanted to give them an example.
Jesus knew He was going to die on the cross, come back to life again, then return back to God. Yet, He gave the disciples a lasting example: Serve One Another. Christ came to earth to serve others for the glory of God. As leaders, you can follow His example by leaving a legacy of serving others for the glory of God.
2. Jesus had all power given to Him, yet He continued to serve others. John tells us in 13:3, "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands..." At this time in history, this act performed by Jesus was usually given to the lowest of servants. Yet the One who was in the beginning and through Him all things were made, served those He was leading.
As leaders, there must not be a task you are not willing to do if you want to lead others. Even in the midst of your busy schedule this week, think of one way you can serve those you are leading. As you serve, remember Peter's instruction in First Peter 4:11, "Whoever serves is to do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ."
Servant-Leadership is understanding that Christ served by 'humbling Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).' Even though leaders face difficult decisions, demanding schedules and burdensome days, they do so knowing Christ is their Strength and that if 'He, the Lord and the Teacher, washed feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet (John 13:14).'
So what are some ways you can serve those you lead?