“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God,4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” John 13:3-5
Over my years in Baptist churches and around Baptist universities and seminaries, I have heard this verse explained in the following way: “Even though Jesus was conscious of His divine nature from His birth and realized that He had come for a specific and special purpose, He submitted Himself to performing this act of humiliating service.”
I never have liked that explanation because it makes this public act of service out to be something that is foreign to His nature and His purpose. The way that I understand this passage is just the opposite. I make it to be that since Jesus came from a land of love and returned to a land of love, felt that there was so sacrifice or act of service that would actually be to him and act of humiliation. He didn’t feel that He was stooping below His nature when He washed those disciples’ dirty feet. He didn’t see it as an act unworthy of His divinity or royalty. This simple act didn’t denigrate His claim to be the Son of God. To Him there was dignity in what we would consider to be His humility. This is who He is, where He came from, what He came to do. This is the essence of who He is.
This gives us something entirely different to think about when we consider our acts of sacrifice or service. We are not commanded to be humble in order to serve, but we are to serve in order to keep us from becoming too humble – and proud of it. It’s because service is such a “god” thing that He calls us to it. We are not called to work in the vineyard so that we will be humiliated. We are called to serve there to keep from being humiliated.
In our Father’s house the servants are the leaders. It is the followers who are waited upon. Their lamps have gone out. Doesn’t the Bible teach that He will carry the lambs in His arms? Those who are the weak? Why would you always want to be a lamb? Lower and weaker? Wouldn’t you rather hear the call to come up higher? Then obey His voice. Put on your work clothes because the higher into heaven that we climb the more menial our apparel will become. By the way, even the wedding garment is stained.
We will know the souls in front by the way that they’re dressed. They are wearing the clothes of service. They are carrying the tools of sacrifice. Men may ask, “Who are these people who look like they work day and night? Who are these whose clothes are stained and dirty? Whose robes are dyed? And the answer will return from heaven, “These are they who are dressed in the robes of Heaven; these are they in front of the throne.”