Of washing feet

There are some happenings in the Bible that just boggles the mind. One of those things are the washing of feet. As early as Gen 18 we read about how the washing of feet was a sign of humility and submission.

But the most interesting is of course from this passage in John 13:

Joh 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
Joh 13:2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him,
Joh 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God,
Joh 13:4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.
Joh 13:5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Joh 13:6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”
Joh 13:7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”
Joh 13:8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”
Joh 13:9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”
Joh 13:10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.”
Joh 13:11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” Joh 13:12 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?
Joh 13:13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.
Joh 13:14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
Joh 13:15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
Joh 13:16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
Joh 13:17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

One of the last things that Jesus does while alone with his disciples before His crucifixion, is to wash their feet.

Now let’s stop, and think about that for a second. Here is the very Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of man, the perfect One, the Holy one, the Judge and Lord, the Creator of all, down on his knees in the dirt, stripped half-naked, on His knees, washing feet that could not have been too clean. How humiliating. I am not even all that keen to give my wife a foot massage, and it would never cross my mind to wash my male friends feet while half-naked.

So what then inspired Jesus to get down on the floor and do that?

Firstly, it was a demonstration of unselfish love, symbolic of the much more gruesome and terrible act of love that was to follow. Secondly, it was a voluntary humiliation, showing that there was nothing too humiliating to do in the name of love. Thirdly, it was an example of humble brotherhood and closeness, and fourthly, an example for the disciples of what He expected of them after He was gone.

All four reasons come back to one thing though, humble love. Jesus was not too proud, or too wise, or too rich or poor or great or grand. He was simply loving, unconditionally so. He did not think too highly of Himself to stoop down and wash feet. Jesus did not expect anything in return, it was an unselfish act.
And if that then is the example, and the standard, how woefully short do we fall, day after day? We always want to show how wise or clever we are, how knowledgeable and intelligent, how sophisticated and refined. yet here we have the example of the Master Himself, the ultimate wisdom, yet also the ultimate in humility and love.

Do we love each other like that? Can we wash each others feet without making a big deal out of it? Do we unconditionally share each others burdens? Are we humble and loving to the extent of getting down in the dirt to set an example? I know that I am not. Human pride and weakness is so overwhelming.

We are so quick to fling the dirt, instead of washing it off. Pray to be humble and loving, and serve each other with the humility that Christ demonstrated, and the world will be a much better place.

2 responses to “Of washing feet

  1. Nicely said, John. I love this passage from John’s gospel and I’m not quite sure why more people don’t acknowledge its power. I especially like the undertones of 13:10, which hints at Baptism. ie, once you have been cleansed through the waters of Baptism, you need no further cleaning except for the crud that builds up from simply walking (metaphorically, of course).

    I once attended a Primitive Baptist Church as part of a research project I was conducting, and they are one of the few churches left who practice foot-washing as a sacrament alongside Eucharist. A very cool experience.

    Anyway, just wanted to drop by and leave a little comment. I just set up a new blog, let me know what you think if you’d like.


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