Tenderness: Our ultimate example to follow

The room fell silent. Jesus knelt with the wash basin, and for the first time I noticed the towel wrapped around His waist. He was dressed like a servant. My eyes darted back to the door and I realized that no one had greeted us to wash our feet. We were so busy talking and dreaming about the Kingdom Jesus had promised. He talked about it daily and as His closest friends, we wondered where we would rank. 

My friend didn’t silence us. I’d seen Him flip a table and banish evil, so I knew He was fully capable. Instead, He lowered Himself and began washing each of our feet. In those last moments with Jesus, His example left an imprint on my heart. 

One thing stands out to me in the account of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet (John 13): His tenderness. His time was coming to an end. He could have easily rebuked His friends. Jesus, however, chose tenderness. He kept His eyes on the prize. 

I often have a different approach to perceived character flaws in others. I notice it the most with my husband and kids, but it comes up in other relationships. More often than not, my distaste for the negative traits outweighs my love for the heart that lives behind them.

Hebrews 12:2 compels us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The joy set before Him. Returning to His Father was a joyful event! He endured the cross because He knew eternity was on the other side of it. 

Jesus’s life was the beginning of a new era. He provided a lifetime of service, but what can we learn from His final moments with His disciples? 

  • Timing is everything: Jesus washed the disciples’ feet just before the Passover Festival, a time of remembering the sacrifices necessary to be spared from the Angel of Death. His death on the cross would replace the need for future sacrifices. 
  • Tenderness wins: He served quietly and gently. He didn’t allow distractions in the room to prevent Him from serving and teaching His followers. 
  • Dress the part: Jesus was a King in servant’s clothing. He fully engaged in washing their feet and later he “put in his outer garments and resumed his place” (verse 12). There is a clear differentiation in roles, but a willingness to be present in each. 
  • Don’t overdo it: He didn’t wash their entire bodies or make a production of it. Jesus did what was necessary and established a practical and attainable example of servitude. 
  • Be honest and intentional: When He spoke to His disciples afterward, Jesus was clear that He wanted them to practice this in their own lives and be blessed for it. Jesus was also honest about those that would not obey Him and would even betray Him. He dealt with difficult circumstances without allowing them to become the focus. 
  • Raise the bar: He raised the bar, as He went on to command us to love one another as He had loved us (verse 34). Not as we have loved ourselves, which is instinctive. Jesus took it to the next level by dethroning self-preservation and replacing it with the selfless love of humble service.

What is one way you can respond to Jesus’s example in your own life?