One of my favorite parts of scripture has always been the story of the last supper. Every spring as we move towards Holy Week, I’m always drawn back to that last night Jesus spent with his disciples around the table. But the reason I’m so fond of that part of the Gospels is because of the moment where Jesus begins to wash the feet of his friends.
Every time I hear someone share about the significance of this moment, it seems to get more and more disgusting. Sandal wearing, dirt and mud covered roads, and no real plumbing systems did not lead to clean feet for these men.
Yet, here was God in the flesh, lowering himself to perform the act of a slave — all to illustrate for us what really mattered.
Something I never realized before until recently was how in this story Jesus was literally hours away from his own brutal, excruciating death. This was a real life, “What would you do if you had one day left to live?” scenarios.
When I preached on this passage a few weeks ago, I confessed to my students that I can’t even be going on a trip somewhere the next day without being consumed with my busyness and “to-do’s” before I leave.
And yet, here is Jesus in his last day of His life, and how does He decide to use His last moments among His disciples (who had just been arguing about which one was greatest)? By showing His love for them.
While there are plenty of times in scripture where Jesus takes advantage of opportunities to glorify himself, this was not one where He did. He easily could have hogged the spotlight that night, drawing attention to his near death in his last hours. But He didn’t. Jesus (once again) models for His disciples — and for us — what life is really about: loving and serving others.
A study done a few years back found that young adults are now three to 10 times more likely to be depressed than their grandparents. The study eventually led them to believe that the hike in young people who are struggling with happiness can be linked back to the “glorification of self.” Translation: “Life is all about me.”
Maybe Jesus, as counter-cultural as He was, was really on to something. Maybe there is a direct correlation between fulfillment and putting other people first. Even Jesus himself gave us his life motto in Mark when he said: “The Son of man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
What words would you use to describe the lives of those around you? I tend to lean towards words like stressed.
What about your own life? Has your own world become wrapped up in finding meaning in the next step, promotion, or moment of success or appreciation?
At the center of that awkward moment where Jesus lowers himself in front of his friends, perhaps we might find that our lives were never meant to center around our own power and comfort — but rather washing other people’s feet.
I recently heard someone say that Biblical humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but rather thinking more of others.
I’m convinced that once our minds begin to shift away from ourselves and towards humility, we may begin to get a taste of the “abundant” life that Jesus told us He came to give (John 10:10).
• Colin Noonan is director of Youth Ministries at Mountain View Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee. Follow his own journey of learning how to humbly serve others on Twitter @cnoonan3 or email him your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.