This article is based on Pastor Adrian Rogers' message, Christ-Like Love.
In Bible times, people wore sandals, and the roads were dusty and gritty. If you came into a well-to-do house, there would be a pot full of water and a basin, and a little bench. You would slip off your sandals, put your foot down into that basin of cool water, and a servant would get down and wash your feet.
In John 13, Jesus knows that He is going to be crucified and that Judas is about to betray Him. Knowing all of this, Jesus takes off His outer garments, ties a towel around His waist, and fills a basin with water. The Lord of Glory—knowing that He has come from God and is going to God, that the Father has committed all things into His hands—washed the smelly feet of this motley crew of disciples. (Read John 13:3-5). Then He said,
If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you....A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
Go into any bookstore: what are the books all about? Self-love, self-esteem, self-glory, self-fulfillment. Our society is based on being preoccupied with ourselves.
Yet we see Christ humbling Himself and doing the labor of a slave. It is not without significance that He “rose from supper and laid aside His garments” (John 13:4a). That was what Jesus literally did, but it is also symbolic of what He did when He stepped out of His glory in Heaven and came to Earth. He humbled Himself. He became obedient.
But His disciples were not that way: the same evening that Jesus washed their feet, there was a dispute.
Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.
Jesus never says, “Do not be great.” Jesus says, “Just make sure that it is real greatness that you get.” Real greatness is service.
Humility is not thinking lowly of yourself. “I’m just no good...”Jesus, knowing who He was (see John 13:3), washed His disciples’ feet.
The grace of God exalts a man without inflating him, and it humbles a man without debasing him.
Thinking about who we are, and who God is, helps us to love one another as we ought.
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31b). You are supposed to love yourself. Now, you are not supposed to love your faults; that is egotism. But think: does God love you? Is it all right for you to love what God loves? Yes. We love ourselves by understanding who we are by the grace of God.
Grace is God’s acceptance of you. (See Ephesians 1:6.) Faith is your acceptance of God’s acceptance of you. Peace comes when you put your faith in the grace of God. Now you can accept yourself, and for the first time, you are free to accept others. That is love.
True love and pride can never dwell in the same heart! You no longer have to put others down or brag in order to build yourself up. You know who you are in Christ—therefore you can show love. Now others are to free to accept you, because you are not the person you used to be, and that is fellowship.
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
Examine the lives of the disciples: they were not all that lovely at this time. Peter was about to curse and deny Jesus. (See Matthew 26:69-75.) James and John are talking about who’s going to be the greatest in the kingdom. (See Matthew 20:20-24.) They were filled with fear. But Jesus kept loving them.
Many times we excuse ourselves for being irritable if we are tired, worn out, or have had a hard day. We bark and snap and say, “Well, if you knew what I’ve been through, you would understand why.”
Jesus, facing the cross, showed love. If your so-called love cannot stand the test of excruciating times, you don’t have real love at all. If you want to know what you are full of, see what spills out when you get jostled. Jesus is loving under extreme pressure.
Nothing you can do will make God love you more, or less. He does not love us because we are lovely; He loves us because of His grace. (Read Romans 8:38-39.)
1 John 3:18
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
Real love knows no job too small, or too lowly. Jesus knew that soon, Judas was going to betray Him with a kiss, and still He washed Judas’ feet.
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44).
What is the definition of love? Unconditional love means giving someone what they need; not giving them what they deserve. These disciples did not deserve to have their feet washed; in human terms, they needed a kick in the pants. But Jesus knew the love they needed.
Now Jesus moves from the physical to the spiritual, from the literal to the symbolic.
Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”
Jesus was talking now about spiritual defilement. All of us are contaminated by sin.
Salvation is called the washing of regeneration. When we get saved, we are spiritually bathed and cleansed from the defilement of this world. But is there anybody who has not sinned after they were saved? No one. Even though He has washed us whiter than snow, we still walk in a dirty world, and we need to come and get our spiritual feet washed, day by day.
Imagine Jesus came in bodily form now, with a towel and a basin. With scalding tears coming down your cheeks, you would let Jesus wash your feet. But suppose He were to hand you the basin and say, “Will you wash my feet?” You would say, “Gladly, Lord!”
So: will you wash His feet?
And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”
John 13:1-18,34; Luke 22:24-26; Mark 12:31; Ephesians 1:6; Matthew 5:44, 20:20-24, 25:40, 26:69-75; Romans 8:38-39
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.