Dusty Feet: The Heart of a Servant
Foot Washing and Servanthood
In the days of Jesus, people wore sandals. And in their journeys, feet became dusty and dirty. You couldn't walk on the streets or in the mountains or valleys without your feet needing to be bathed. It was for that reason that it was common courtesy for a host to provide a servant to his house guests who would wash their feet.
And on such an occasion our Lord gave one of His most impressive lessons to His disciples, and to us who read of it 2000 years later. He took upon Himself the role of servant and washed the feet of His followers. In this passage, found in John 13, He took the basin and the towel and demonstrated what he wanted them to do to each other and all that they encountered. After doing this most humble of acts he said this:
"If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one anothers feet" (John 13:14).
But this wasn't the first time Jesus showed a servant heart. Our Lord, in coming to earth to die for our sins, displayed the ultimate act of servanthood. (Philippians 2:1-11), He showed us that the way to greatness is by being servant of all (Mark 10:44). But His Apostles, like us today, needed to be reminded. For Him it was a natural thing to do. We, however, have to be taught. And this illustration that Jesus gave that day was a physical demonstration of how we are to behave. The two eternal things in this world that we live in are God and our fellow human beings, created in His image. And we show our love for God by the way we serve our fellow men.
I. The Servant's Feet
When talking about Jesus' servant heart, we can't help but realize that he wasn't afraid to get His own feet dirty going out into the highways and byways of life. He often associated with those who would not be considered "worthy" by many in society. An example of this is found in the book of Mark chapter 2:
13 "And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.15 And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. 16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eats and drinks with publicans and sinners? 17 When Jesus heard it, he said to them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
The type of people Jesus spent time with, we tend to shun today as well. I'm wondering if we would make them feel comfortable if they darkened the doors of our churches . But the honest truth is that most won't come to our Sunday services. We have to get our own feet dirty and go to them.
II. God's Servant: William Booth
William Booth (1829-1912), the founder of the Salvation Army, is a good example of what Jesus taught his disciples. He and his wife Catherine displayed servants hearts with dusty feet. And by the year 2005 the Salvation Army was in 111 countries, working with those who were most needy.
William Booth is quoted as saying of the organization that he created: "It was for the wife beaters, cheats and bullies, boys who had stolen the family food money, unfaithful husbands, burglars and teamsters who had been cruel to their horses."
He and his wife started the Army to go into the inner cities with compassion and caring for the least in society. And they daily left the security of their own home to go out and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to those in the streets of the world's greatest cities. Booth had a well known saying that he was famous for: "Go for souls, and go for the worst."
C.H. Spurgeon once said that: "If the Salvation Army were wiped out of London, five thousand extra policemen could not fill it's place in the repression of crime and disorder."
It had and continues to have, to this day, a profound affect on our world for Christ.
II. Every Day Examples
One modern day example of going out into the world Jesus loved is right in front of most of us as we drive to work, school or church. With today's economy, there seems to be an over abundance on the streets of most American cities those people who have signs saying something like: "Homeless, and hungry. Will work for food." While I realize that there are some scam artists out there, I can't help but think that many of them are legitimate. We must ask ourselves: "What would Jesus do?"
Maybe we can offer to give them work around our house for food, or a few dollars. And maybe we can actually make an offer to buy them a meal at a restaurant.
But we may not have to go to the streets. We might just be able to walk across the street of our home and simply meet our next door neighbor. It is interesting how few people even know the families that live in their very own neighborhood, let alone have any idea of their needs. We have to stop being afraid of reaching out to them and start getting involved in their lives. Let us not miss an opportunity to be like our Lord.
Part of the problem with the Church of Jesus Christ today is that our feet are too clean. We sit in our comfortable homes and varnished pews and wait for the world to come to us. And then we ask them to be dressed in their Sunday best and to look, think and act like we do. If they have an odor, have dirty clothes, or don't talk like they have at least a high school education, we tend to treat them differently than everyone else.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was and is a servant leader who was not afraid to allow Himself to interact with the world He came to save. He didn't become a part of it. He was in the world, but not of it. He calls us to do the same. Let us not be afraid to go out and emulate His example. May we all be accused of having dusty feet.