Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Thoughts on a Foot-washing


John 13 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.  I can't get over this scene, how it must have looked and felt for Jesus and his disciples to share in this Passover, how the disciples must have reflected upon this night over and over again throughout their lives.  Of course, there is a sharp contrast between what Jesus knew and felt and what the disciples knew and felt.  For them, this was just another Passover feast; for Jesus, this was his last meal with his disciples before His crucifixion.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end...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, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. (Jn 13:1, 3)

I love that there is no hesitancy or insecurity or questioning with Jesus.  He knew why He was sent to this earth; He knew the time had come to depart; and He knew it was the moment to wash His disciples feet.

I've been thinking about this passage all day today.  Last night at Elevate, we remembered the last days of Jesus on this earth, and tomorrow night at church, we will reflect upon the Last Supper and Christ's crucifixion.  I can't get over the fact that the last thing Jesus chose to do with His disciples was wash their feet.  Knowing all the He knew -- that He was sent from God, that His time had come, that He had loved His own, that the Father had given all things to Him -- knowing all this, Jesus "got up from supper, and laid aside His garments" and washed their feet.  Why?  Why of all the things to do with them did Jesus do this?  Jesus says to Peter, "What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter."  What was Jesus wanting them to understand?

When Christ comes to wash Peter's feet, Peter rejects His attempt.  Understandably, right?  Peter knew that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.  It makes sense that Peter's first reaction is to push Christ away and not allow Jesus to humble Himself in that manner and wash Peter's feet.  But Jesus doesn't let Him, and Jesus even seems harsh with what He says: "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."

We often recognize that passage as Jesus teaching His disciples about love and the heart of a servant, and this is true.  Jesus Himself says, "If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet."  But I think that Jesus was also preparing the disciples for what was going to happen on the cross.  If the sight of their Messiah stooping down to wash their dirty, disgusting feet caused them to react as they did, what were they going to think when Jesus was lifted up and brutally murdered on the cross?  Would they accept Christ as He willingly gave His life on a cross to be their Savior?  Would they let Him "wash" them through His blood on the cross?  Would they recognize that unless Christ washed them, they would have no part with Him?  And would they believe Christ's promise, that He would return?

I think Jesus, in His mercy, was reminding His disciples that He came to serve, and whether that serving was through the washing of feet or the death on a cross, He would fulfill His purpose.  There was nothing glamorous about Jesus' ministry on earth, but Jesus didn't come to have a glamorous ministry on earth.  He came to serve, and He came to die, so that He could rise and conquer death forever.  The disciples had a choice: they could allow Christ to wash them clean, or not.

I want to live my life as one who recognizes Christ's saving power in me.  I want my life to be characterized by the fact that Christ washed me and I am a new creation in Him!  That is my prayer always, but especially during this Holy week.

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