Throughout His ministry, Jesus often stepped outside the bounds of socially appropriate behavior in a way that required explaining. The night before His betrayal was one such occasion. Rising from the dinner table, Jesus proceeded to wash the feet of each of His disciples (John 13:1–5). This act of service was shocking on a number of levels. It was the disciples’ job to serve their Teacher, not the other way around. But more than that, even the disciples would not have been expected to wash Jesus’s feet. Foot-washing was considered such a demeaning task that it was only ever assigned to non-Jewish slaves. Is it any wonder that Simon Peter was so aghast when Jesus knelt before him, towel in hand? (vv.6–9).
And yet, this scandalous act was entirely in keeping with Jesus’s mission on earth. He came to teach us how to live and walk in God’s ways. More than just coming to die, Jesus came to teach us how to live in the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3–10). From this humble foot-washing to dining with sinners to His radical forgiveness, Jesus called for His followers to practice the way of kingdom life that He demonstrated in His: “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done for you” (John 13:15).
I’m reminded of one morning in 1963, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. looked out on his front lawn and saw a familiar sight. Planted in the Civil Rights leader’s yard was a burning cross. Now, Dr. King was no stranger to these threats; in the preceding five years, he had been bombed, stabbed, and repeatedly imprisoned. And after every act of evil and violence he endured by people who hated him, the world watched for his response.
And so on that morning in 1963, journalists were once again waiting outside his home, when Dr. King came out with his iconic suit and tie. He picked up the crude, blackened cross, and he began to say a prayer, but not for his family or cause or safety or vindication. No, in Christlike fashion, Dr. King began to pray for God’s blessing and favor to be extended to the people who lit that cross in his yard. It was a moving scene for all who looked on as they caught a glimpse of God’s upside-down kingdom, one that calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43–44).
This is why Jesus came: to teach us how to live as God’s children. His is the exemplary life to imitate. In Him, we see God’s kingdom, and when we follow in Christ’s footsteps and live according to His example, the Holy Spirit bears fruit in us, manifesting the kingdom of heaven in our lives as well. What a glorious thought! As we prepare for Christ’s Advent and live in expectation of His return, may we, like Dr. King and countless believers before him, discover the joy of God’s kingdom on earth as we imitate the Lord.
Written by Collin Ross