She washed my feet that day.
It was hot and dusty in Ensenada, Mexico. So many things were different from what I knew – outdoor bathrooms, eating in the open air, houses with just two rooms in them, little stores in people’s homes… A completely new culture. And I loved it. I fell in love there…with fish tacos. And, more importantly, with the Mexican people. So beautiful. So generous. So kind.
We had just returned from a neighborhood outreach where we hosted a game of “football” (or “soccer,” as we Americans call it.) My sandaled feet were dusty and dirty from walking on the unpaved roads, so I sat down on a retaining wall next to a water spigot to wash them.
A Mexican woman, my sister in Christ, watched as I tried to balance on the wall while scrubbing my feet. Then suddenly, she walked over and knelt beside me. She took my dirty feet in her hands and began to wash them for me.
I was speechless. How do you thank someone who just showed you Jesus in such a vivid way?
That memory is forever etched in my heart and mind. I don’t even know her name. But she was Jesus to me that day. And someday I will meet her again. We will talk uninhibited by language barriers about the Servant Master we both love.
This memory came to mind recently as I read from John 13 with my kids. Jesus, Creator of the universe, Most High God and King of Kings, knelt before His followers and served them. He did the lowest of jobs, a job reserved for servants, when He washed their stinky feet. It was a picture of His love for them. And an example for them (and us) to follow.
But I’ve always wondered why the Bible includes verse three – “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God.” Apparently, this was the basis of His service. What significance did this knowledge have for Jesus? Philippians 2:6-7 gives an interesting parallel. Jesus, “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-slave…”
The man Jesus was totally secure in His identity. The Father knew Him and had given Him authority over all things. That was enough for Jesus. He didn’t have to prove that, to grasp that equality. It’s who He is, regardless of whether people recognized Him or not. Because He didn’t live for the approval of man, He was able to empty Himself and serve.
And that can be true of us as well. A few verses earlier in Phillipians 2, we are told to “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (v. 3). It’s not that we are less important than others. We are all made in the image of God. But we don’t have to prove our worth, because God knows us and has given us our identity.
As God’s child, I am chosen and greatly loved. I have been made holy and blameless through the blood of Christ. I was adopted because He wanted me. He has freely, lavishly, bestowed grace upon me and has given me every spiritual blessing. I am redeemed and forgiven. His intentions toward me, His child, are kind. I have been given an eternal inheritance and have received the Holy Spirit to seal and guarantee that inheritance. His surpassingly great power is for me. (See Eph 1.) In Christ who loves me, I overwhelmingly conquer (Rom 8:37). Direct, bold access has been granted to the throne room of the Almighty (Heb 4:16). He has personally drawn me near (Eph 2:13). I am firmly rooted and complete in Christ (Col 2:7,10). I am a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), God’s masterpiece (Eph 2:10). And nothing, absolutely nothing, can ever separate me from the steadfast love of my Jesus (Rom 8:38).
That is just a taste of my identity as a follower of Jesus. Is it yours? If you know Jesus, it is your identity as well. Nothing can change that – not our sin, not the opinion of others. Our Creator defines us and has blessed us beyond measure.
If God knows us, and says this is who we are, we have no need to “grasp equality” with those around us. We have nothing to prove. So like Jesus, we can freely serve those God puts in our lives. The indwelling Spirit of Jesus will direct and empower us as He lives His life through us.
When has someone been Jesus to you?