confident humility

I’ve been trying to decide how to write about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. Yesterday, I hinted at a feeling of entitlement among the disciples, just a moment of it. I think it was too much of a hint. So I’ll be less subtle.

Confidence let Jesus be humble. Deservingness causes humbleness to be needed.

The whole story of the foot-washing starts with John talking about the love Jesus has for his disciples, the power he has from his Father, the fact that he is about to return to the seat of his power. John clearly reaffirms Jesus’ status and then says, “so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.” The act of service is rooted, for Jesus, in not having anything to prove.

He gets nothing from this act, usually reserved for a gentile servant. Rinsing the feet of guests from the dirt that accumulated from manure-laden paths as they walked to a party had no redeeming value. This was not like opening the door for someone, an act that people can take turns doing. This was not about helping the helpless, an act that can earn inverse status points.

This act would have carried no points, would have seemed repulsive to the disciples rather than noble. The idea of a servant leader was still new; was, in fact, in the process of being created at this table, on this night.

As I have been thinking about this action, I cannot find an equivalent in our society. We look to Mother Teresa touching lepers or countless homeless advocates passing out socks, but while inspired by Jesus, they aren’t what Jesus was doing in this moment.

But, says John, Jesus wasn’t jeopardizing his position, he was establishing it.


Tomorrow we’ll look at deservingness.

Other writing on this story:  You have to do whatever

7 thoughts on “confident humility

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention confident humility « 300 words a day --

  2. Joseph Crockett

    What an insightful way to explain that passage. I have heard it explained in a “servant” context but not in terms of “confident humility”. Thanks for writing about it. — Joe


  3. AJ Leon

    Jon, this line “The act of service is rooted, for Jesus, in not having anything to prove” – will always stick with me.

    In our culture, we write books about servant leadership for C-Levels, attempting to extract a business or team-building meaning from this passage. Jesus had nothing to prove … thank you, Jon, great great post.


  4. Johanna Fenton

    Hey John, thanks for your post today. You said, “I cannot find an equivalent in our society.” I challenge you to find an equivalent in some seemingly mundane place today or this week. I would love to hear your story if you do. Just a friendly challenge!


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