“He [Jesus] laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him…When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you 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”…”A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:4-5, 12-15, 34-35)
It is difficult to read this passages and not feel the power of the Gospel pouring out from them. Jesus’ moral teachings have not lasted 2000 years because he brought something new to the table, but because of the way he taught them. If it was only moral teachings that he came to teach us, his ministry would have been unnecessary – most of them were already contained within Judaism and share common characteristics with all major religions across the world – essentially saying be a “good” person and that’s enough. But Christ did not just teach the principles, he lived them. He lived them so perfectly that the people around him fell to their knees and called him Lord. The ones that didn’t knew there was something so strong, so pure within him that it threatened their identity, and they had to kill him.
Many have no problem calling Jesus a good man or agreeing with his teachings. But when the idea of him being the Son of God gets tossed around, they think that the idea is crazy. Yes, it is a very difficult concept to accept – but what’s the alternative? That a homeless, penniless man who taught for only three – yes, three years and claimed to be God, who didn’t conquer by force, but by living so beautifully that no one could deny his words, became the most powerful man the world has ever known? Now that is even crazier. But many times, especially in today’s world, it is not Christ who turns non-believers away from Christianity, but Christians.
The fact is that many bad things have been done over the ages in Christ’s name. For many people, mentioning Christianity produces thoughts of self-righteous people and hypocrites. People in today’s world have enough trouble trusting their own spouse, let alone an ancient book called the Bible. With the lack of trust in each other, is it any wonder that many people are turned off by talking about the Gospel? That is not to say that there is not power in the Gospel, but simply telling it to many people in today’s world is not going to convert them. It was no different in the 1st century, and Jesus knew this better than anyone. He did not just go around teaching about love, about kindness, about patience, about humility, he lived it. Rarely, do the words of people convict us – it is the actions that go along with the words.
Besides the Crucifixion, nothing in the Gospel hits me harder than the washing of the disciples feet. Washing someone else’s feet doesn’t even seem appealing to us today, but in the 1st century, it would have been much worse. Everyone wore open-toed sandals and collected dust, sweat, bacteria, sand, and who-knows-what on their feet all throughout the day. It would be almost comparable in modern times of having to wipe someone else’s behind. Imagine the sores, corns, and calluses they must have had walking around on harsh terrain with only sandals on. Pretty appealing, right? But the Son of God humbled himself and washed his followers’ feet as an example, an act of love. It is in these acts of mercy and servitude that Jesus’ words shine so bright that we can’t ignore them. We become like Nathanael and cry out, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49) His life becomes so beautiful that we know this is not just a human being, but the Divine. If the Lord of the Universe humbled himself enough to wash the dirtiest parts of his followers’ bodies, what excuse do I have to not follow his example?
Jesus says that the world will know his followers by their love, but many times it seems all his followers are depicting is hate, judgement, and condemnation. That does not mean that all Christians are like that or that even the ones that are, are bad people. The point is, if we want to draw people to Christ, than we have to start acting like Christ. Whether we are aware of it or not, I believe people are going to look to our character first before they look to the Gospel. The Gospel is meant to change us. That doesn’t mean we’re going to be perfect, but we should be becoming more Christ-like. Who is going to want to listen to someone tell them about Jesus if they’re still the same old jerk they have always been? When people see the light of God we are shinning out in the world, their only response has to be one of curiosity and interest. They are going to want to know just what power is working in our life to create that change. Loving one another is not only a commandment, but it is the voice the Spirit uses to draw others to the Gospel. May we follow Christ’s example, so that others will not be turned off by our behaviors, but become fixated on the true Light.