But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Galatians 5:22,23
There are choices we must make every day as we relate to others. To extend grace or not to. To freely forgive or to withhold forgiveness. To be upset over an offense which leads to bitterness or to excuse. All of these choices are part of our daily make-up in Christ. To be filled with and overflowing with His gentleness means we must be influenced by His character in every situation. In cases in which we are motivated by self, we will find every reason to be better than someone else; to “one-up” and assume superiority. If gentleness marks us however, we will live in humility and go into every situation knowing Christ’s example is greater.
Today’s blog takes much from the example of Christ in John 13 in which our Savior modeled true gentleness through the humble act of washing His disciples’ feet. Honestly, the trait of gentleness is rooted in a spirit of humility. We’ve seen that already through some other items in the list: love, kindness, and goodness to be sure. But really it is gentleness that seems to have the most direct correlation to a humbleness of heart and to a strong desire to serve out of an effort to model our Lord.
Jesus washed feet. I want to look at this passage specifically so that the rest of our discussion is seen within this context:
4 So He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself. 5 Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who asked Him, “Lord, are You going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I’m doing you don’t understand now, but afterward you will know.” 8 “You will never wash my feet—ever!” Peter said. Jesus replied, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” 10 “One who has bathed,” Jesus told him, “doesn’t need to wash anything except his feet, but he is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew who would betray Him. This is why He said, “You are not all clean.” 12 When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined. again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord. This is well said, for I am. 14 So if I, 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 also should do just as I have done for you. 16 “I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. John 13:4-17
1. Jesus demonstrates gentleness through humility
He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him. John 13:5
It’s hard to imagine the Son of God in such a lowly position, washing the grubby feet of 12 grown men. Through historical examination, we know households in this part of the world had slaves. Some slaves had a job to wash and dry the feet of visitors and guests. We know also that the common footwear of the day were probably sandals. With the sand and dust, we can safely assume most guests had very dirty feet. Before sitting down at a meal, it would be a requirement to be washed as most tables were on the ground and guests would recline around them. The last thing you wanted was someone’s dirty toes on your plate!
We can imagine this scene as it plays out and realize that Jesus is doing something He did not have to do. But to get His disciples into a mindset of serving and self-sacrifice, this would be a huge teaching moment. In a few hours, all of the them would scatter. All would be forced to go into hiding and some to even deny Christ. But if they would reflect back on this moment, they would see a purpose behind all that Jesus was doing. “What I’m doing you don’t understand now, but afterward you will know.” This act and His eventual death on the cross were all outpourings of gentleness and humility. Many of these men would walk a similar path as they proclaimed the Gospel unto martyrdom.
2. Jesus’ meekness was not weakness
If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. John 13:17
The fruit known as gentleness gets translated as “meekness” in the King James Version of the Bible. Meek is an interesting word. Merriam-Webster, defines meek as: “Having or showing a quiet and gentle nature: not wanting to fight or argue with other people.” Along with this definition, we tend to see meek as being mild-mannered, wimpy, and willing to back down from a fight. If we convey all of this onto Jesus, we can see Him as a pushover and weak-willed. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Jesus’ meekness and gentleness in washing His disciples’ feet is a call to humility but it does not lay down His authority as the Son of God. We know He took Pharisees to task. We know He called out money changers in the Temple. And though He goes humbly to the cross (like a lamb to the slaughter), it was because He laid down His power. If we follow Christ, we are called to be gentle but that gentleness does not mean we avoid protecting and standing up for truth. In His humility, Christ washed feet. But it was to point to a greater truth that His disciples must follow and obey.
3. Jesus’ washed feet — we must also
For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you. John 13:15
The words of Christ to His followers in this passage are quite clear: You must do unto others as I have done unto you. This teaching is hard because we naturally lack the humility that Christ possesses. We don’t want to take the place of a servant. We see it as a vulnerable and weak position. To forgive someone else might take away our power over them. To not be bitter because of a certain situation means we can’t try to control it any longer. To extend grace means that the person receiving the grace may offend us again (and again).
Think about this: Jesus washed feet before He went to the cross. He knew Peter would deny Him 3 times. He knew Judas would betray Him with a kiss. He knew the whole 12 would scatter and basically withdraw from His side. Yet He washed their feet anyway. He served them anyway. And if He did that for them, it also means He did it for us. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) Jesus in His gentleness doesn’t say, “Go clean up your act and then come back to Me so you are worthy of Me.” No. He goes first. He lays down His life first. And as we receive Him, He says “Now go and do unto others as I have done for you.” Wow.
One thing I believe God led me to hear in preparing this week’s message is to think upon the Holy Spirit. The way the Spirit works is so gentle. He is not pushy. He does not force the door open into your life. But He stands and waits and asks for you to receive Him. That is how we are to display this fruit of gentleness. It’s counterintuitive because we think it will somehow make us seem spineless and powerless. But actually, just the opposite is true: as you are filled with the Spirit and pour out gentleness, you are filled with a power no one else in this world has. You are given an opportunity to display something other-worldly…a reminder that all of these traits are from a Spirit not of this world.
Guys I need this reminder today. I need to be out there washing feet; both of my Christian brothers and sisters and those non-believers who just need to know Christ. It’s a place of humility. It’s an act of service. It’s a laying down of the will; mine for Christ’s. But if we don’t do it, who else will? Praying for you and asking God to give you the power to do what might seem impossible in your own strength. His power is perfected in our weakness.
I love walking the journey with you guys!
Catch up on all the previous blogs from THE FRUIT series: