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SOMEONE HAS TO WASH 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." John 13:1-5 NIV.
This is such a familiar story that we can almost recite it from memory. But we don't only know the story; we also know the ceremony. Hasn't someone at some time washed your feet? Some churches even incorporate it into their Easter services as a ritual.
So what is it all about? Since the roads were dusty and the people wore sandals, it was the householder's responsibility to provide water to wash their feet. They either washed their own feet or it was done by a slave.
The disciples had just been arguing about who would be the greatest in Jesus' new government (Luke 22:24). There was no slave in the house to do the job. They were certainly not about to wash each other's feet! Jesus' feet, perhaps, but that was all. No one made a move before supper, and still no one made a move after supper. Was Jesus waiting for one of them to get up and do the job or did He know them well enough not to expect any of them to do the courteous thing? Not one of them was willing to be humiliated by doing a slave's work.
These guys needed to be taught something. What was His intention? To set up a new ritual for the church to follow? Not likely since He wasn't interested in adding to the burden the Pharisees had already put on the people. Whatever Jesus did had to fit His nature -- "gentle and humble in heart" (Matthew 11:29), and the nature of His yoke which was "light".
How could Jesus, who was the Son of God, stoop down and do so menial a task? He could have left their feet dirty rather than do a slaves' work. What Jesus did the disciples could not do for two reasons:
Firstly, He was secure in His identity. Had not He lived His entire public life out of the knowledge that He was the beloved Son of the Father? The Father had publicly affirmed Him at His baptism and given Him the mandate to represent Him in His life and work because Jesus had His unqualified approval. By washing His disciples' feet He showed that He had nothing to prove and nothing to lose.
Secondly, He did it because He loved them. It did not matter as much to Him that He was the Son of the Most High God as that their feet were dirty and needed washing. That's what love does -- love meets someone else's need at its own expense. Two simple reasons why it cost Him nothing to wash their feet! He did not have to swallow His pride, humiliate Himself or make a show of what He was doing. It was an act of hospitality any host would extend to his dinner guests except that, this time it was the host Himself who did the honours!
This was completely in line with the disposition of Messiah we see so clearly in Isaiah's prophecies. He gives us glimpses of the "Ebed Yahweh" -- the Servant of Jehovah -- across the 66 chapters of his magnificent writing. He was the one upon whom the Spirit of the Lord rested (ch 11); He would bring justice without raising His voice or trampling the weak (ch42); He would be a polished arrow hidden in the Lord's quiver (ch 49); He would be beaten, rejected and punished for the sins of His people (ch 52, 53) and He would bring freedom and healing to His people through the power of the Spirit (ch 61).
What was Jesus doing? He was showing them the heart of a true servant; not a ceremony to be performed but the disposition of a disciple that flowed out in loving service to whoever needed it. Simple but not easy! It depends on whether that disciple has anything to defend or to prove. If we, like Jesus, are secure in our identity in God and our love for His people, we can humbly "wash" one another's feet as Jesus did without shame or embarrassment.
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