Too few Christians understand what it means to emulate Jesus. One of the big weaknesses in reformed evangelical circles is we only see the huge demands of the gospel on sinners and their need to be washed by Jesus yet we’ve completely missed the radical demands it makes on our lives post conversion. Even though we know we’re not saved by what we do, we’ve bought into the lie that being a Christian is all about following rules and if we follow them, we’re doing what Jesus died for.
Most of those rules are well intentioned but they rarely have any grounding in scripture. Demands of the gospel are turned into things like, not going to the cinema, not drinking alcohol, not going to the pub, rather than loving our neighbour as much as we love ourselves, caring for the poor and doing good to all people.
If this is our understanding of what it means to be a Christian, we fall well short of the New Testament vision of what a Christian is. The demands of the gospel on the life of the Christian are completely radical.
In John 13, Jesus has washed His disciples’ feet and He tells us that He, as He did this, was being an example to all who follow Him. Check out what verses 12 to 15 say.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
Jesus wants us to emulate Him. He wants us to serve, like He serves. When you think about how Jesus serves His disciples here, we have to notice:
- He does any menial job to serve others – here is the Godman, doing the task of the lowest servant. He didn’t moan, He didn’t not do it because of who He was. He does the lowest of jobs to serve others.
- He serves everyone – he doesn’t just pick the disciples he was closest to. He doesn’t just choose the ones who will give him the most. He washes all of their feet. Even Judas’.
- He doesn’t do it to get anything back in return – he washed Judas’ feet knowing that he was about to betray him and have him killed. He knew he wasn’t going to get anything back from Judas but He washed his feet anyway.
How different is that from us? We serve those we’re closest to. We serve to be served back. Jesus does neither. And he commands you to do the same as Him. If you’re thinking – nah, that’s not for me. Jesus speaks to you:
16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
Our Saviour’s logic here is hard to argue against. If He washed their feet, then they – as His disciples – should wash one another’s feet. His point is if I am the Lord of all glory and I humble myself like this – what about you? How can you not do the same. The implication is that if you say, “I won’t serve you,” to anyone , what you are really saying is that you think you’re better than Jesus. . . radical servanthood was fine for Him but not for me!”
There are times when we are all tempted to think of your dignity, your prestige, or your position in the church. When that happens, open your Bible to John 13 and get a good look at Jesus—clothed like a slave, kneeling, washing dirt off the feet of sinful men who are utterly indifferent to His impending death. Even washing the feet of the man who would betray Him. When you think that Jesus loved and served His enemy. We really are left with no excuse.