A disciple is a follower. We all follow someone…or something.
A disciple is made in the heart of a man, but is exposed by the actions of a man. This is why Jesus exhorted His disciples, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15). What had Jesus just done? Washed the feet of His disciples, including the one who would betray Him. What was He about to do? Die for them…and you…and me.
Today there is so little ‘washing of feet’ and laying down of life that we’d all be well-served to go back and ponder verse twelve of John chapter thirteen. “Do you understand what I have done for you?”
I call Jesus ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ but do I follow His example because I understand what He has done?
Our actions reveal our confusion about the true expectations of discipleship. Instead of following Jesus by washing feet–we demand that others serve us. Who better could Jesus have required to wait on Him hand and foot than His own disciples. So why does He throw their equilibrium into the spin cycle? “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love” (John 13:1).
This love was reserved for those who were closest to Him. As disciples do we find it easier to casually love “those out there,” while reserving judgments and demands for those who travel the dusty, hot, and exhausting roads of shared life with us?
Living in Southern California with family in Washington state, I can attest to the toll a long road trip can take on the courtesies of civility. After eighteen hours in the car, I would hardly think to wash the feet of my family members–literally or metaphorically. I want to be as far away as possible from the whines, whimpers, and selfish whimsies of my bio-brats.
What about our co-workers? The ones who marginalize, dismiss or criticize us? The ones who malign, exploit, and yes, even betray us? Do I consider them worthy of having their feet washed?
For many, I reserve attitudes unbecoming a disciple of Christ. Yet, it is exactly into these demanding, can’t-get-away-from relationships that Jesus says “you should also wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). Why? “Because no servant is greater than his master” (John 13:15).
Am I the only one who so frequently forgets that “by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34)? …love one another so much that you can’t wait to wash their feet even when they are covered in the dust of criticism and enmity for you. Father, forgive us for our pride of thinking we deserve better than our Brother Jesus.
There is one who came to kill, steal and destroy…he buries with accusation, robs peace, and suffocates unity.
And Another who came as the Way, the Truth, the Life…He came, and spoke, and loved.
There is no middle ground. The Bible is vacant of the “just tolerate enough to get by” relationships filling our families and churches today. Instead, we need disciples who will warm up the waters of forgiveness and follow the Jesus-way in demonstrating the full-extent of His love to those with whom they share close quarters.
Of whom will you be a disciple?