Age is creeping up on me. My knees hurt. My back hurts. Little nagging injuries are now nagging a lot louder and more often. A lot of times I wish I didn’t have to bend down and pick up the pen I dropped because I know it’s going to hurt. But after all your pens are beneath you on the floor, I guess you have to pick one up if you’re going to get anything done. If only it was painless and convenient. I believe many businesses and organizations implode, not necessarily due to economics, but because their leaders refuse to serve. They want to be in charge. They want to reap all the rewards that their status brings. And, quite simply, they do not want to be inconvenienced. After all, the leader is the “head honcho,” right? The leader has paid his/her dues. The leader is the one whose life is made easy by everyone around him/her. This brings to mind the story in Scripture when Jesus was eating the “Last Supper” with his disciples.
“It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. 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. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” – John 13:1-17 NIV
There are so many great lessons to be learned in this text, but I want to simply focus on the act of Christ’s washing of the disciples’ feet. Imagine the scene. A group of dusty men sharing a last meal together before Jesus’ crucifixion. I’m sure none of them were in any danger of winning the “Cleanest Citizen Award!” Certainly their feet were not their most admirable assets. In addition, there are some incredibly mind-blowing things here to consider: Jesus’ earthly ministry – one in which he has healed the lame and blind, raised the dead to life, and for good measure, walked on water – is drawing to a close. The cross is looming. If anything, He should be worshipped and held in the highest honor for what He has already done as well as what He is about to do. And what does Jesus do? He gets up from his place of relaxation and enjoyment, puts on a towel and begins to wash the dusty feet of the ones who had followed Him during His ministry. In doing this, He made himself “low” figuratively, and physically, as he was most likely was on His knees, performing one of the most menial forms of servanthood. And don’t miss that Jesus, knowing that Judas would betray Him, also washed his as well! Jesus got it hands dirty washing feet. Then He got them bloody dying for all of mankind. If leaders would take on this attitude of serving that Jesus displayed for His disciples and for us, there would be no limits to what could be accomplished in every business and organization around the world. Imagine leaders humbly serving those “beneath” them? Imagine the gratitude and then the reciprocation that would result. Productivity and morale would skyrocket because everyone would be serving for the good of others. Leaders, we have an incredible opportunity to set the tone for our businesses and organizations, not from the top down, but from the bottom up. You can’t wash feet while standing over someone. Make yourself low. Be willing to be inconvenienced in order to make things better and/or easier for others. In doing so, you become great.