This passage of scripture is often held up as one of the primary examples of the humility of Christ…and with good reason. Not only did he stoop to wash the disciples feet, but he stooped to wash Judas’ feet, knowing what was in Judas’ heart and that he would soon betray Him. He also didn’t regard this act as stooping…and that is the thing that strikes me the most. It is pride that says “This is beneath me.” There is no trace of that in Jesus’ words or actions. His purpose was to bless, and (more importantly) to instruct them (and us) in the way of humility. He says “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, 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 also should do just as I have done to you. (v. 15-16)”
In his book “Humility,” Andrew Murray asserts that “everything is worthless that is not pervaded by deep, true humility towards God and men.”
He goes on to say (and I quote extensively because I could not say it better) “when our heart is set upon this true sanctification [i.e., the humility exemplified by Christ], we shall study each word of Jesus on self-abasement with new zest, and no place will be too low, and no stooping too deep, and no service too mean or too long-continued, if we may but share and prove fellowship with Him who spake ‘I am among you as He that serveth...Brethren, here is the path to the higher life: Down, lower down! Just as water ever seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds the creature, abased and empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and bless.”
Let us be convinced then, as Mr. Murray is…as Christ showed us…that our “one need is humility, and let us believe that what He shows, He gives. What He is, He imparts."
Oh Lord, empty us that you might fill us. Empty us that we may know the humility you have shown and, like you, take the form of a servant, deny ourselves and be a reflection of your goodness.