“ So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” – Luke 13:4-8.

When I read the foot washing story in the Gospel of John, my shock was similar to Peter’s when his feet were washed by Jesus. “How can he do this!” How can the Son of God and God the Son humble himself in this matter?

When Jesus rose from the table and began to wash the feet of the disciples (John 13:4), He was doing the work of the lowliest of servants. The disciples must have been stunned at this act of humility and condescension. The humility expressed by His act with towel and basin foreshadowed His ultimate act of humility and love on the cross. Jesus’ attitude of servanthood was in direct contrast to that of the disciples, who had recently been arguing among themselves as to which of them was the greatest. (Luke 22:24)

Over 2,000 years later, foot washing is no longer in use. We have shoes and indoor plumbing with showers and…you get the picture. But that does not change the meaning, which is having a servant’s heart. How might we in turn learn to serve one another in the spirit of how Jesus served us? How do we see people in need and lovingly and joyfully give our time and very selves to them? How can we transition to more of a basin theology or a servant approach to our Christian walk? The answer is to get beyond ourselves and learn to serve others as Jesus served others.

The heart of a servant starts with a clear and deep conviction in your heart about what Jesus did in serving you by giving Himself as a ransom to set you free from sin and death. In other words, the only thing that will turn your heart away from looking inward and looking outward is an ever-growing, ever-deepening, ever-expanding understanding of what Jesus did for you on the cross and why it was necessary that He do it. God is far more interested in why you serve others than in how well you serve them. He’s always looking at your heart, serving willingly and eagerly out of love for Jesus and gratitude for all He’s done for you.

God calls people to help fulfill His purposes in the world. In fact, when we identify ourselves as “Christians,” it is one way of saying that we have a basin theology, that we serve others as Jesus did by washing the feet of His disciples.    

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does basin theology mean to you? 
  2. Everybody thinks serving others is a good idea. But why is it sometimes difficult to act on it?
  3. In what ways do you feel like you don’t have what it takes to help other people?
  4. When you serve someone else, how does it help you as much as it helps the people you’re helping?
  5. Identify one step you can take to serve someone this week.