1997-07-21 - Dirty Feet
The Cross Series, Part 3
Originally Published 1997-07-31
The Lord had many things He still wished to impress upon and review with His disciples. It should have been evident to each one that time was very short. Jesus used an object lesson of staggering, lasting impact.
John 13:3-11 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about. 5 Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 And so He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, "Lord, do You wash my feet?" 7 Jesus answered and said to him, "What I do you do not realize now, but you shall understand hereafter." 8 Peter said to Him, "Never shall You wash my feet!" Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." 9 Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." 10 Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you. 11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, "Not all of you are clean."
In the The Last Supper, I made the statement that Jesus 'laid aside His deity'. I did not mean to say that He became less than God. But just as He does with his clothing here, He does not make use of that position or authority. The Creator of the Universe, the One who spoke and the worlds were formed from nothing, humbles Himself visibly and takes the position of a servant. From time to time, Jesus would give us glimpses of His power and authority, casting out demons, curing crippling or lethal disease with a touch or a word, commanding the dead to return to this life. Unspeakable power, more than we can comprehend available with a thought or wave of a finger. And in this moment, He willingly steps down beneath the level we like to think of ourselves to drive His point home.
By the Jewish law, their feet should have been washed before sitting down, probably before entering the house. But they each had many thoughts running through their minds. All focused on their beloved Master, who was telling them things they were struggling to come to grips with. Jesus, now using the towel He had covered Himself with, is washing the dusty feet
of His shocked friends.
Peter can stand no more as Jesus approaches, naked, to wash his feet. "Never shall you wash my feet!", he proclaims. I can see Jesus looking up with a sad smile at His friend. Peter's intentions are good. His heart and mind struggle with what he sees. Jesus gently corrects the burly fisherman once more. "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." , Jesus tells Peter plainly. Without a moments hesitation, Peter swings the pendulum to the farthest corner from where he was. "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." If this must be Lord, then give me the full treatment. If this is the way it is done, I'll take as much as You will give me. A great heart is shown again in Peter.
But here comes the first lesson. Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you". Each of the disciples, save Judas Iscariot, were saved, or 'bathed' in their faith in Jesus as Messiah. Each day, walking through the world, we get dirt on our feet. But to be 'completely clean' once again, all we have to do is confess our sins and failings to Jesus. He stands ready to wash our spiritual feet at any moment. A wonderful, intimate time with the Lord it can be as He does not rebuke, but refreshes and reminds us that He is there for us. I also find it interesting that Judas is still at the table. Jesus clearly states that at least one of the men present is not clean, but Jesus also does not close the door. In the remarkable love and patience of the Master, He reaches out to Judas yet again in a powerful way.
John 13:12-17 And so when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments, and reclined at the table again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? 13 "You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 "If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 "For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16 "Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master; neither is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17 "If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
As Jesus puts his robe back on and returns to His place at the table, the second lesson is made clear. If you call Me Lord and Master and I am willing to wash your feet,then you each should wash each others feet too. Jesus does not say, be willing to under certain circumstances, He says do it. So do we walk around with a basin and a towel? It is not our physical feet as much as our spiritual feet Jesus is addressing here. The Lord taught this once before.
Matt 18:15 "And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
Be willing to get into someone's face and, in love, tell them, "Hey, I think you blew it here." Leave the 'Thus sayeth the Lord' and the condemnation at home. We are all capable of whatever this person has done, and more. If the offense is directly against you, you have the greatest ability to get them to listen. Gently take him or her aside and quietly present your case. If you show them by your actions that you are ready and willing to forgive, you make it easier for them to own up to their actions. In this we wash each others feet clean of the daily dust of the world. If Jesus humbled himself as amazingly as He did, then we can lay aside our anger and offense and be a little humble too. And the world will know that we are Christians by the love we have for each other.
There was one last point. On several occasions, Jesus had to bear with the squabbles over who was the greatest of the group. One time, the mother of James and John press them to ask for the seats at the right and left hand of Jesus. Those places were not even Jesus' to give, but the Father's. Once and for all, Jesus ends the argument of who would be the greatest. It is not by words, but by deeds of humble service to others in His name. Jesus never sought His own glory. Even when He asked that He be glorified, it was to honor the Father. Once again, Jesus sets the standard back to where it belongs. It is where we are unable to reach without His help.
Lord Jesus, In one simple moment, You showed us facets of Your heart and mind for us that are so simple, and direct, and yet deeply profound. It is, once again, the simple, uncomplicated faith You hold out to us. We are more like the Pharisees that we would like to admit. We do like to be seated at the head table, have the door held for us, to be recognized. If it does come to us, help us to use it humbly for Your glory and honor. Give us a renewed desire to spend a minute reviewing the day with You, so that You may wash our dusty spirits. Help us to be humble and caring, ready ourselves to wipe the daily grit from the spiritual feet of those around us, as you give us opportunity to minister. Amen.
Grace & Peace,
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.
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