This passage demonstrates one of the fundamental themes of Jesus’ message. The Kingdom of God is inverted from the Kingdom of Man. Every Gospel records the conversations of the disciples regarding which one of them would be the greatest. In each account Jesus blasted them with the truth of His Kingdom. God’s Kingdom is not about greatness. It is not about power over others. It is not about wealth, or fame, or prestige. God’s Kingdom is about truth and it is about service. In John’s Gospel, we do not only get to hear the words of Jesus’ response to the self-serving, greedy attitudes of His disciples, we get to see His response in action. “You want to be great in my Kingdom? I’ll show you what greatness looks like. Take off the outer clothes by which people can identify your social status. Wrap yourself in the towel of a slave and get on your knees. Now do to one another the kinds of dirty, gloryless acts of mundane service that society feels is only fit for a slave. When you are willing to authentically view your brother as better than you and deserving of your humble service, then you will be ready to lead in my Kingdom.”
When was your last “foot-washing?” When was the last time you took food to someone who is not able to feed themselves? When was the last time you just sat and listened to someone who really needed to vent? When was the last time you served another person knowing that that person would never return the favor? Now, here’s the kicker…when was the last time you did something like that and didn’t tell anybody about it? That is the true test of the heart. It is one thing to “get dirty” knowing that you can give your testimony about how dirty you got when you get back to church. It is an entirely different level of humility when you do it knowing that no human will ever know. Remember, Jesus wants your heart. If you are serving in order to receive “atta-boys” from people, then your heart is still in the Kingdom of Man. Serve God and God alone, regardless of the cost. This is a truly “great” person in God’s Kingdom.