“So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.”
– John 13:14-16 (NRSV-CE)
Today is Maundy Thursday, the Church’s anniversary of the institution of the Eucharist through the Last Supper. This was when Jesus broke the bread, gave it to His disciples, and said, “Take this, all of you, and eat of it; for this is my Body, which will be given up for you; and the wine, which ended with the line, “Do this in memory of me.” Only hours later, Jesus would be brought before the high priest and eventually condemned to death.
For today’s devotion, however, I would like to focus on what occurred during the first part of the supper: Jesus removed his outer clothes, armed Himself with just a towel, and washed the apostles’ feet. Peter, perhaps horrified that his Lord should do so lowly a thing, refused, but relented after Jesus told him that he could not have a share with him if he refused.
Here, Jesus is teaching His apostles – and us – the true meaning of leadership. Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Life laments that there are no books about servanthood, only leadership and servant leadership. I disagree: servant leadership is servanthood. Jesus Himself was a servant leader, acknowledging in the passage above, for instance, that the apostles were right to call Him teacher and Lord, yet still exercised the traits of a servant in serving His apostles.
I think all of us should be servant leaders. Notice that the phrase is servant leader, not leader servant. We are, first and foremost, servants – servants of God, stewards of creation. A steward is a servant and not an owner. We are God’s employees in taking care of His creation. Our first and foremost initiative would be to serve our Lord, our giver of true life. True living begins and ends with service to Him.
Then, we should take the initiative to lead – to lead people forward to God, to lead the effort to tell the world of His love. In this case, we are like Christ’s appointed managers – with a constituency of people to lead towards God, but ultimately reporting to Him for duty. Again, that we answer to God should be our first and foremost responsibility.
As Christ washed His apostles’ feet, so should we do the same to our fellowmen. Not that we should go door-to-door tonight and wash the foot of every person who answers the door. But we should have that attitude of willing to do for others, to invest our time and energy in them, to help them, and to let them help us.
Have a blessed Holy Week!