Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet
“It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 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.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
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. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John13 :1-17
This is another example of Jesus turning upside down what most of the world was looking fro in the Messiah. Jesus did the lowliest task that could be done——Kings did not do what Jesus did—-and yet here He is, stooping down to clean the nasty feet of these young men. Jesus washing the feet of the disciples shows us three important things:
First, most importantly it displays the amazing humility of Jesus. For the disciples, Jesus, their Lord and Master, washing their feet was a contradiction of how they understood hierarchy and leadership. In their minds it was repulsive and unimaginable for a person of Jesus’ prestige, power and respect to wash the filthy feet of these teenagers.
Walking in sandals on the unsanitzed roads of Israel in the first century made it imperative that feet be washed when you came into a home—-and absolutely before a communal meal. People walked everywhere back then—no cars, bikes or other means to get around. The streets were clogged with donkeys, mules, livestock and all the filth from the homes that were swept onto the streets. When Jesus rose from the table and began to wash the feet of the disciples , He was doing the work of the lowliest of servants—the most mindless and humbling of chores. The people of this time wore sandals, not closed shoes, and they picked up all the manure and refuse left behind from the animals.
The disciples were stunned at this act of humility and condescension…. Christ, their Lord and master, washed their dirty little feet, when it should have been their proper work to wash His! But Jesus was born not as King and Conqueror, but as the suffering Servant and the most humble of men.. As He revealed in Matthew 20:28, He came “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The humility expressed by His act with towel and basin foreshadowed His ultimate act of humility and love on the cross.
Jesus’ attitude of humility and serving was in direct contrast to that of the disciples, who had just been arguing among themselves as to which of them was the greatest. Since there was no servant present to wash their feet, it would never have occurred to them to wash one another’s feet. When the Lord Himself stooped to this lowly task, they were awe-struck into silence. To his credit, though, Peter was profoundly uncomfortable with the Lord washing his feet, and, never being at a loss for words, Peter protested, “You shall never wash my feet!”
Then Jesus said something that must have further shocked Peter: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8), prompting Peter, whose love for the Savior was genuine, to request a complete washing. Then Jesus explained the true meaning of being washed by Him. Peter had experienced the cleansing of salvation and had been baptized and did not need to be washed again in the spiritual sense. Salvation is a one-time act of justification by faith, but the lifelong process of sanctification is one of washing from the stain of sin we experience as we walk through the world.
The second point is this: When we come to Christ for the washing of our sins, we can be sure that it is permanent and complete. No act can cleanse us further from our sin, as our sin has been exchanged for the perfect righteousness of Christ on the cross. Yes, like getting their feet washed by Jesus, we also need the continual cleansing from the effects of living in the flesh in a sin-cursed world. The continual washing of sanctification is done by the power of the Holy Spirit, who lives within us, through the “washing of water by the Word” (Ephesians 5:26), given to us to equip us for every good work.
The final point is this: When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He told them (along with you and me), “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15, NIV). As His followers, we are to emulate Him, serving one another in lowliness of heart and mind, seeking to build one another up in humility and love. When we seek to elevate ourselves, we displease the Lord who promised that true greatness in His kingdom is attained by those with a servant’s heart (Mark 9:35; 10:44). When we have that servant’s heart, the Lord promised, we will be greatly blessed (John 13:17).
Friends, we’re called to lives of humility—-not conceit and pride. When Christ cleansed us from unrighteousness, we were born again to be different—-better. Hemingway put it this way: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” But are we? Are we the prideful publican in church that looked down upon the lowly tax collector and thanked God that he was not like him? Or are we more like the despised tax collector who beat his breast and whispered: God, have mercy on me a sinner?
The greatest followers of Jesus Christ, and the most respected in Christendom all knew a bit about humility. Mother Theresa said this:
“Here are the few ways we can practice humility:
Speak as little as possible of one's self.
Mind one's own business.
Stop wantING to manage other people's affairs.
Accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.
Pass over the mistakes of others.
Accept insults and injuries.
Accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.
Be kind and gentle even under provocation.
You can be religious and proud. You can be quite educated and well acquainted with the Bible and be arrogant and egotistical. “But as long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on thing and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.” ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
And let me add that our pride, egos and conceit will not draw others to Him—-it’s repulsive even to the vilest of men. We’re drawn to the assurance, confidence and courage of men and women who know more than we do, have accomplished far more than we ever will, have worked much harder and suffered silently, and yet never bring their virtues, experiences or accomplishments to our attention in an attempt to puff themselves up or diminish us.
He’s called us to consider the needs of others before our own needs. Make no mistake, to be a part of Christ’s work, you must humbly allow Him to make you clean—and the hidden word is here is humility. He said: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” He has to give us that Spirit of humility, and then He expects us to share in the work of washing feet—-i.e. of never assuming, regardless of our experience and spiritual maturity, that we’re above menial, but necessary chores or errands.
Think about this again: Jesus said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” Jesus led by example. He did not demand of others that which He did not do.
I want to challenge you to consider this old prayer I discovered. No one knows who wrote it, but it came from an humble soul:
Lord, you know better than I do that I am growing older and will soon be old. Keep me from becoming too talkative, and especially from the unfortunate habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and at every opportunity.
Release me from the idea that I must straighten out other peoples' affairs. With my immense treasure of experience and wisdom, it seems a pity not to let everybody partake of it. But you know, Lord, that in the end I will need a few friends.
Keep me from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.
Grant me the patience to listen to the complaints of others; help me to endure them with charity. But seal my lips on my own aches and pains -- they increase with the increasing years and my inclination to recount them is also increasing.
I will not ask you for improved memory, only for a little more humility and less self-assurance when my own memory doesn't agree with that of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.
Keep me reasonably gentle. I do not have the ambition to become a saint -- it is so hard to live with some of them -- but a harsh old person is one of the devil's masterpieces.
Make me sympathetic without being sentimental, helpful but not bossy. Let me discover merits where I had not expected them, and talents in people whom I had not thought to possess any. And, Lord, give me the grace to tell them so.