Authority, Responsibility, and Service: John 13:1-17

Focus Passage: John 13:1-17 (NIV)

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!”

10 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.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

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. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Read John 13:1-17 in context and/or in other translations on!

In today’s journal entry and passage, we’ll be looking a little closer at one of Jesus’ instructions to His followers. It is one many people, myself included, read and intellectually understand, but often times struggle with how to actually apply it in daily life.

In verse 16, we read, “Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” What gets me every time is that this idea is framed almost immediately after Jesus has taken the lowest role in society – washing someone’s feet.

It is as though Jesus is saying that we must be willing to submit ourselves to others, even going as far as submitting below the lowest role possible in society. Or we could understand this to mean that we must humbly serve in any (and every) role in society where God has lead us.

Jesus, who had all authority, became the servant, and in doing so, He instructs us to serve others as well. Having authority in this context is having the responsibility to serve those who you are responsible for.

We are not greater (by any stretch of our imagination) than Jesus, and He stepped into the lowest position in society to help give greater emphasis to this truth. He tells us that we must be willing to do the same.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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