For I gave you an example, so that you also would do just as I did for you. John 13:15 NASB
Example – How many times have you searched all over to find something and then discovered that it was in plain sight all the time? My wife often points out that when I go to the refrigerator to look for something she needs for cooking, my eyes just don’t see what should be obvious. I say, “I can’t find it.” She responds, “It’s right in front of your face. See!” and with one finger she directs my attention to the very thing I was trying to find. Having the ability to see does not mean that we actually take in the image and recognize it. Sometimes it takes someone else to point to it. Sometimes it requires deliberate directional disruption.
Yeshua knew that it took deliberate, tangible expressions of love in order to communicate. By washing the feet of the disciples, he pointed to something that they should have easily seen but they were not ready to understand. God’s love is expressed in humility and service. Foot washing was a common expression of welcoming, a way to honor a guest. But it was done by servants, not masters. Yeshua’s example upsets the usual paradigm of expected behavior, challenging his disciples to see something deeper, something that should have been obvious to them but wasn’t.
The Greek word here has the sense of setting something plainly in view. But it also communicates something else. hupŏdĕigma comes from hupŏ and dĕiknuō. hupŏ means “under or beneath.” dĕiknuō means “to point out, to cause to see.” The idea is to put something under scrutiny in a way that will cause understanding. Isn’t it interesting that the very word used for “example” begins with the thought of “putting under”—humility? In fact, this is the first word in the verse, not the verb “I have set.” It’s in the place of emphasis.
If we are going to be living pointers to God’s love, we will have to take actions in life that open the eyes of others in ways they do not expect. We have to break the norm. These are not ambiguous or concealed behaviors. They are deliberate, open expressions of humility and service. They need to be the kind of actions that cause others to say, “Did you see what he did?” or “Look at her!” The kind of actions that cause the people to stop and stare, and in Yeshua’s time, give praise to God. These are Stop sign actions.
Followers of the Messiah who live according to Yeshua’s example put God in plain sight. They point to His care and His character. Seeing what they do means that the presence of God can’t be missed. But it’s what they do that matters, not all those religious words that seem to be the modern priority.
It all begins with “under.”
Topical Index: hupŏdĕigma, example, John 13:15