In The Road to Character, David Brooks notes a common pattern among people whom we know to have great character: “They had to go down to go up. . . . They had to humble themselves . . . if they had any hope of rising up transformed. . . . In the valley of humility . . . they had opened up space for grace to flood in.”*
When Jesus takes off his robe, ties a towel around his waist, and starts washing the disciples’ grungy feet, he takes the role of the lowest servant in the house. When he puts on his robe, returns to his place, and tells his disciples to do to others as he had done to them, he is commanding them to lay aside their symbols of status and self-importance to serve others with the same humility he has demonstrated.
Paul proclaims this truth when he describes Christ as one who “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave . . . humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7-8). He challenges us to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility to . . . look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3). When he summons us to “let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5), he calls us to lay aside our status symbols and approach life with the same servant-shaped humility as our Lord.
Every time we gather around the Lord’s table, whether we include foot-washing or not, we are invited to experience the grace that floods in when we learn the way of humility.
*David Brooks, The Road to Character (New York: Random House, 2015), 13.
O Servant Lord, you showed us the way of humble, self-giving love by washing your disciples’ feet. Draw us close to you. Set us free from our narrow self-interest so that we may love as you loved, live as you live, and serve as you served. Amen.
The readings for Holy Week focus our attention on the sacrifice made by the Messiah. The prophecies in Isaiah speak of it. The Psalms tell of confidence in God even in the midst of betrayal and suffering like that experienced by Jesus. The author of Hebrews celebrates Jesus’ death as the final and perfect sacrifice. Paul describes crucifixion as the center of our teaching as Christians. We follow these events through the eyes of two Gospel writers, particularly John. Jesus foreshadows his death in multiple ways, but even his closest followers struggle to understand and accept its meaning. Why would the Son of God experience such alienation and suffering? It is all for us, the ultimate work of love. But then he conquers the grave! Praise be to God!
Read John 13:21-32. When have you noticed darkness planting seeds of betrayal in your heart? How did you follow Jesus’ light?
Read John 13:1-7, 31b-35. What status symbols do you hold on to that keep you from following Jesus’ example of humble service?
Read Isaiah 53:1-5. On Good Friday, God enters into human suffering. When have you felt God’s presence in your suffering?
Read John 20:1-18. How has Christ found you?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.