Serve the Community




Trading a Crown for a Towel

Scott Benson

Ask God to speak as you interact with today's Scripture and devotional.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.… When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” — John 13:3-5, 12-17

One big topic up for debate among the disciples was the contentious question of “who’s the greatest?” Who was Jesus’ favorite Gold-Star, A student? For instance, the “Sons of Thunder,” James and John, seemed out to secure their first-place status with an audacious question in Mark 10:37, inquiring about the possibility of sitting right next to Jesus in heaven. When word got out about their request, the other disciples were indignant and Jesus immediately seized that moment to redefine greatness: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” But to drive that lesson home, Jesus left them with a word picture they would never forget. Dave and Jon Ferguson bring us into that Last Supper setting by detailing the impact Jesus must have made:

In the ancient world, washing someone’s feet was a routine practice before sharing a meal. But it was a job for the lowest ranking person in the house. And I doubt I have to tell you that it was a gross job! 

For a meal like this, Jesus’ friends would have reclined at a table and sat on the floor. All those gross, gnarly feet might even be within inches of your face. Just imagine the awkward silence in the room as the disciples realized there was no servant to watch their feet.… But just when the awkwardness meter got dialed up to 11, Jesus, their teacher and rabbi, their Lord, takes his shirt off, ties a towel around his waist, and starts to wash the feet of his followers. 

Keep in mind that theirs was an honor-and-shame culture. Protecting your reputation and your dignity was critically important. Your honor was like your credit rating: the higher your honor score, the more privilege and prestige you enjoyed. If you had a high honor score, other people were expected to serve you. Washing feet in public would be a great way to tank your honor score. No one would risk that! 

Jesus’ message (to us) is simple: it's now your turn to serve the way He served. It's your turn to set aside your crown for a towel. We live in a world that believes the higher you rise and the more power and wealth you accumulate, the more leverage you have to get others to serve you. But Jesus takes that idea and says, “Here is what it really looks like to bless the world: you serve!” (Dave Ferguson and Jon Ferguson, B.L.E.S.S.: 5 Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor and Change the World, p. 98, 100)


Answer the questions below and write down any other thoughts and prayers to God in your Life in Rhythm journal.

Imagine being one of the disciples. There’s no servant available to wash everyone’s feet. The “awkwardness meter” is rising as everyone wonders if someone will volunteer. Suddenly you see Jesus getting up to serve. You watch him as He tenderly cares for each disciple. And now it’s your turn. He looks deeply into your eyes as He removes the dirt from your feet. Finally you hear Him say, “Now that I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.”

  1. What are you thinking and feeling as you hear Jesus’ call to wash someone’s feet ? 
  2. Is there someone you know whose feet need washing, who need to be served?  
  3. What would it mean to that person for you to serve them? 
  4. When and how could you do that … maybe even today?

Go deeper (optional)

Every day you'll have an opportunity to "go deeper" into God's Word by practicing the REAP study method. Read the following scripture and use your journal and the REAP method to unpack the following scripture and apply it to your life.

Matthew 20:26-28
Learn more about reap