[Jesus] got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet... [Afterwards, he said,] "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. John 13:4-5,14
In Jesus' ministry, we often hear him talking about humility and serving others, and we see clearly how this is illustrated by his act of washing his disciple's feet. He speaks with disgust about teachers who "love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues" (Matt. 23:6) and then he says, "The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (vs. 11-12).
Interestingly, a story is told that is very similar to this one about the great Rabbi Gamaliel, who was head of the Sanhedrin and defended the disciples in Acts 5:34-40. Interestingly he was an influential figure in later Judaism as well.
At a banquet, he got up and served food and drink to several rabbis who were of much less stature than him, which shocked them. A debate ensued about whether the great rabbi could set aside his own honor and serve the others, with some initially rejecting his service, just as Peter rejected Jesus' offer to wash his feet. But finally, they declared that he could:
It is interesting that Gamaliel, who showed his sympathy with the early church in the book of Acts, is recorded as acting very similarly to Jesus by humbly serving others. Could he have been influenced by Jesus' teaching? The Gospels say that he knew about this famous rabbi and his unique movement, so it is a strong possibility.
It is beautiful how Paul, a disciple of Gamaliel, brought all these ideas about the humility of God in the person of Christ himself. He said:
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