“Jesus… rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist” (John 13:3). “When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?” (John 13:12).
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, but notice how John includes a very interesting detail to this story. Jesus takes off his garment exposing his inner or “under” garments in the middle of supper. Jesus shocks everyone with his counter-cultural behavior. That would be inappropriate even in our day, especially if you’re the honored guest. Garments have always been designed to cover and outer garments become how others recognize us. On this night, Jesus strips off what people see and uncovers something deeply profound about his character. Jesus willingly sets down any reputation of deserved honor for a moment and reveals the true substance of his heart – humility.
After Jesus resumes his place with his outer garments on he asks his friends a question, “Do you understand what I have done to you?” (John 13:12). Philippians 2:5-11 helps answer that question. “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” But, after Jesus walks in humility, God demonstrates the truth of his substance. “Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).
Following in Jesus’ humility requires similar risk. Humility seems inappropriate because, as humans, we’re taught to hide. We prefer covering up by using protective mechanisms. We hide behind our pain, our pride, and our positions. We hide behind the power we think we hold or the past we can’t let go of. We choose protection over humility until we eventually perceive our outer garments as our total substance. However, there is more to us than the garments we wear and the illusions we create.
Jesus not only removes his garments to humble himself, he sets it aside so that he can cloth us with his righteousness. When we allow God to expose our outer garments for what they really are, we can finally find the freedom to shed our defense mechanisms and the grace to lay them down. Only when we shed our layers of protection with humility, can God cloth us with his righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). Spend 10-15 minutes today in silence asking God to reveal what you’re trying to protect. Try not to evaluate yourself, but listen for God’s tender voice speak into your life.
By Yvonne Biel