Posted by: Mike Willoughby | September 28, 2011

How do you say Love (Part 8)

When is the last time someone went out of their way to do something special for you simply because they loved you?  Perhaps this person cooked you a special meal, took over some of your household chores when your schedule was a mess or helped you with an especially challenging task.  How did you feel when that special person served you without any expectation for compensation?  If your heart was truly touched by their gift, you may speak the love language of “acts of service.”

Acts of service were covered earlier this year in the Relationship Matters series so those thoughts won’t be repeated here.  Instead let’s follow the path set with last week’s article and look at an illustration of this love language in action by Jesus.  Read the following passage from John 13:1-7 thinking about the statement in the first sentence that Jesus “loved his own” and “loved them to the end.”

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”

Feet-washing was a common act of service in first century Palestine most often performed by a member of the household staff.  If a servant was not available to perform the service, the feet of dinner guests could go unwashed unless someone volunteered.  Volunteering for feet-washing would communicate in a very tangible way the station in life of the feet-washer compared to those being served.  Apparently none of the disciples had volunteered to perform the service perhaps out of a sense of entitlement.  There had been consistent friction within the group concerning the pecking order so it is likely that none were willing to “lower themselves” to take care of the chore.  The result was stinky feet at a dinner table where the participants reclined head to feet around the table.  Yuck!

Jesus promised Peter he would understand the lesson in the future and he begins with this explanation in verses 12-17.

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.  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 also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

This lesson was for Peter and also for each of us.  If Jesus was willing to step down and serve then what excuse do we possibly have?  With this powerful illustration, Jesus was showing these disciples and the rest of us how deeply “he loved them to the end.”  He told them he expected them to love each other to the end and show it with their actions based on his example.  He expects the same from us.

We may not have the need to literally wash feet in the 21st century but figuratively we have the same opportunity to express love to one another in this way.  It’s especially meaningful to someone who speaks the primary love language of acts of service.  Sometimes being the hands and feet of Jesus requires us to take that responsibility seriously and decide to figuratively reach out and wash some feet.

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!

Copyright © 2011 Michael Willoughby. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to author and/or owner with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Hi Mike,
    as a nurse in my younger days washing a patients feet was a regular daily practice particularly as a junior nurse (first year). It did not bother me at all and I gladly performed this task, mostly for old people who found it difficult to get down to their feet. WhenI got to know the Lord and all He did for people I felt privileged to have been able to perform this task. As I grew older I did not have to wash too many feet and now the thought of doing that kind of grosses me out but would do it in a heart beat if I am required to do so….except not cutting toenails.. So if our Saviour did this then why can we not help our fellow human beings and whatever lowly task is needed. I will try and remember that. Thank you for those words Mike, and a gentle reminder of who and what we are. Servants of the Lord Jean

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