The humility of Jesus (Yeshua) was rooted in his love. At the Last Supper, Jesus knew his time with the disciples was nearing an end, so he emphasized his love for them in humble words and actions.
John 13 (NKJV)
Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet
1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
2 And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
Jesus’ performing of a servant’s task underscored the truth that he came to serve and to lay down his life for all who believe in him. He ties these two together in Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” In the same way, he declares in Luke 22:27, “… I am among you as the One who serves.”
In Matthew 11:29, his intimate relational love is evident as he invites his followers to be yoked together with him explaining, “… I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
In Philippians 2, Paul urges believers to be “like-minded, having the same love” as Christ, who “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant”.
Unity Through Humility
1 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
The Humbled and Exalted Christ
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus tells Peter in John 13:7, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” The symbolic meaning of this act would become clear after Jesus’ death and resurrection. In John 13:15, Jesus also tells the disciples he has given them an example that they should follow:
12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
In washing their feet, Jesus was teaching by example a principle of humble service to one another. His washing their feet did not lower his dignity; rather, it revealed the humble character of the Son of God.
Barbara van den Akker writes in her book, “ABC’s of Walking With God (and winning the spiritual battle)”:
Our prime example of humility is, of course, God Himself. That has got to be the greatest understatement of the ages! Imagine the One Who thought of all there is seen and unseen, created it and holds it all together by the Word of His power becoming one with His creation, absorbing all of their sin into Himself, taking the punishment for it and then turning and giving His unspotted holy righteousness to the offenders. Take heart, Beloved, God dwells in the high and holy place with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit to revive the spirit of the humble. (Isaiah 57:15) Now, what is our reason for holding onto pride? What ridiculous excuse can we use for not turning the other cheek and humbling ourselves? Correct! There is none. Not one!
In John 13:17 above, Jesus promises to bless those who do these things. F. F. Bruce comments: “This beatitude relates to one particular aspect of a principle which Jesus repeatedly underlines in his ministry: it is not enough to hear, understand and approve what is right; one must do it.
Jesus’ humble service flowed from his love. In John 13:34, Jesus gives them a new commandment: to love one another as he has loved them.
The New Commandment
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
F. F. Bruce comments, “The standard of love which the disciples are to have one for another is the love which their Lord has lavished on them: ‘he had set his love on his own people who were in the world, and he loved them to the uttermost.’ (John 13:1) The commandment of love was not entirely new: all the law and the prophets were summed up in the twin commandments ‘You shall love the LORD your God …’ and ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18; Mark 12:28-33; Gal. 5:14); but by his teaching and still more by his example Jesus imparted a new depth of meaning to it.”