Jesus Displays His Love

Open Your Bible

John 13:1-38, Isaiah 42:1, Mark 10:45, Philippians 2:5-11

Teresa lived a simple life. Simmer the soup. Scrub the dishes. Hug a leper. She probably started out not imagining choosing a life of poverty and service among the poorest of the poor would turn into a world-wide religious organization. She simply served.

I think Mother Teresa’s commitment to humble service might be the essence of what Jesus taught His disciples in the upper room during the last meal before He offered His life (John 13). He took off His outer garment, grabbed a towel and basin of water, and wiped the disciples’ feet—muddy, crusty, sweaty, hairy, calloused feet—until they glistened.

Our Lord pushed his fingers in between toes to wipe away layered road refuse. Of course, Peter rebuffed the Lord washing his feet (we might too). The King of Glory soiled His hands with a task so beneath the disciples, that none of the Jesus-followers offered to wash each other before the meal. The disciples wanted positions in heaven (Luke 22:24–30), Jesus showed them the true position of the heavenly-minded.

And then Jesus told the disciples to do likewise to one another (John 13:12–17). He chose to teach humble service in His last mentorship session before His betrayal. This is like a deathbed example: love each other by serving one another humbly. 

But He didn’t just tell them—He showed them to what extent they are to love one another: to the end of life itself (Philippians 2:6–8, Mark 10:45). The power of the gospel displayed in Jesus’s death, resurrection and ascension brings justice to the nations (Isaiah 42:1) through the sacrificial service of His people. He is the greatest worldwide movement of all time. 

But humbly serving our brothers and sisters in Christ—hurts sometimes. People gossip. Betray. Lobby. Judge. How can we humbly serve believers when everything in us wants to stand our ground? 

Jesus saw the sinner disciples seated at His table, but picked up the towel and the basin anyway. He plunged the cloth into the muddy water and washed the feet of Denying Peter, Doubting Thomas, and Betraying Judas. He knew they would run at His arrest (Matthew 26:56)—hide in fear after His death (John 20:19). But He humbled Himself anyway. Served anyway.

How we love our brothers and sisters in Christ may look different for each of us as we obey the Spirit’s leading. For me, right now it looks like not splurging on the new outfit so our family can support a missionary. It means holding my tongue when I want to gossip about someone at church. It looks like sacrificing an afternoon of needed chores to visit an elderly church member.

I’m not doing this perfectly, but maybe Eugene H. Peterson said it best when he said the Christian life is “long obedience in the same direction.” Whether in the slums of Kolkata or the ‘burbs in Indiana, I think Jesus’s example to the twelve belongs to us as well. Love one another through humble service—to the end. 

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59 thoughts on "Jesus Displays His Love"

  1. Jules D says:

    Thank you for that. A beautiful reminder that Jesus served knowing that his companions were very imperfect. He does not expect certain behaviour from people: he simply loves them.

  2. Bethany Kendall says:

    This study has been absolutely amazing! Thanks ladies for sharing your stories. I have many loved ones around me that are humbly serving those that they’ve been hurt by. It’s not something I was able to understand but after reading this, I realize that it is the exact love Christ shows us. What I saw as a weakness, Christ sees as a strength. I’m praying my heart will allow me to show the same grace.

  3. Portia says:

    I find it absolutely amazing that Jesus washed their feet knowing that they would abandon, betray, deny, & doubt!
    And this had to be a dirty, messy, stinky experience for Jesus. It makes me consider not just what He did, but HOW he did it. I can’t imagine he complained about how dirty their feet was, reminded them of their shortcomings, grumbled, questioned, and/or had a bad attitude.
    He humbly served them with grace, joy, & mercy.
    Lord help me to do the same with my biological family, my church family, my friends, & my students.