Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

African-American spiritual

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Before the Festival of Passover, Jesus knew that his time had come to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them fully.

Jesus and his disciples were sharing the evening meal. The devil had already provoked Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew the Father had given everything into his hands and that he had come from God and was returning to God. So he got up from the table and took off his robes. Picking up a linen towel, he tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he was wearing. When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You don’t understand what I’m doing now, but you will understand later.”

“No!” Peter said. “You will never wash my feet!”

Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t have a place with me.”

Simon Peter said, “Lord, not only my feet but also my hands and my head!”

John 13:1-9

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When Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, he teaches us a powerful lesson about what following him really requires. Not only does he give us a mandate to love one another, he also models astonishing humility. After all, he puts on a towel, kneels down before his disciples, and washes their feet and does the job usually reserved for the lowest ranking servant.

No wonder Peter was shocked. I don’t think he was just shocked because Jesus had humbled himself to wash his feet. I think Peter realized he would be asked to do the same. Peter had earned a reputation for many qualities, but humility was not one of them.

We live in a world marked by arrogance and self-promotion. Increasingly success is defined as selling ourselves and convincing everyone else to agree with us. We respond to those who disagree not with grace, but with judgment.

But Jesus comes into the midst of it all and washes our feet. He shocks us out of self-absorption and shows us humility. If we follow him, it is our turn.

Paul Baxley

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Lord, I pray that I will be so filled with your love that I serve my church and my community with humility. Amen.

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Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts in “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” (1707)

Paul Baxley

Paul Baxley is the executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Sunshine on My Face

John Morton

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