Serving in times of anguish

February 24, 2022

By Althea Taylor, Director of Compassion, Justice, and Immigration

John 13:3-5 (NIV)

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he 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, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 

John 13:12-17 (NIV)

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. 

The past two years have been challenging years for ministry. The world has and is still experiencing a global pandemic. Our beloved Metro New York City, at the onset of the pandemic experienced being the “epicenter” of the crisis in the United States. Although things have improved, we continue to experience the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic all around us.

As I reflect on what my normal activities would have been as a pastor during this season of Lent, I am led to reflect on the Gospel of John, chapter 13. Although this passage is near the end of Jesus earthly ministry, I am inspired by how Jesus modeled compassion in his final gathering with his disciples. Jesus’ example was a powerful lesson in love, humility, and service. 

As Jesus met with the disciples for the Passover meal, he did the unexpected. In an act of humility, he knelt and washed his disciple’s feet. The Lord of Glory, The Messiah, The Great I AM, taking on the posture of lowly position, knelt to the ground with towel and basin in hand as he washed the feet of his disciples. Those were days of anguish. Jesus’ death was before him and his disciples.

These too are days of anguish and Jesus’ great example to us in times of anguish is compassion demonstrated through humility, service and love. Jesus did not consider himself for who he was – The Messiah – but he humbled himself and served his disciples by washing their feet. 

When Peter, his disciple, protested, Jesus simply told him, “If I don’t do this you will have no part of me!” Jesus was doing more than physically washing his feet, he was offering a spiritual cleansing also. The Master humbled himself to serve his disciples and, by extension, all of humanity.

What motivated Jesus’ actions? I believe it is love. This same love should motivate us also. Love that is grounded in the love of the Savior. A love that causes us to take a posture of humility in this world and serve others just as Jesus’ example of service was demonstrated, especially in times of anguish. 

The world is hurting. Our communities are hurting. The poor and forgotten amongst us are hurting. Can we, will we, humble ourselves during these days of anguish with towel and basin in hand, taking a posture of humility and serve those in our midst who need to and want to know the love of the Savior? I pray we will!


  1. During difficult times it is easy to focus on ourselves. Who is God laying on your heart and mind in these challenging days but you have not responded because your focus has been on your own challenges?
  2. How can you, with compassion express the love of Christ to someone who needs to be reassured that the Lord sees them and loves them? 
  3. Is God calling you to serve others? Will you pray and trust the Lord to care for you as you care for others with a heart of compassion.


Lord, I thank you for love expressed through compassion. Help me today to model your love to others with the same compassion you demonstrated during your earthly ministry. May your Spirit fill me, guide me, and keep me during these difficult days as I keep my eyes focused on you.