My wife, Diane, sighed somewhat heavily as warm cocoa flowed down our daughter’s chin, saturating her once clean, pink nightgown. She leaned over to her, wiping some of the remaining residue from her chocolate-stained lips. “She just had a bath, you know,” she remarked as she hoisted our little girl from her seat. “Only half an hour ago,” she added. I grunted, signaling my comprehension.
“Would you like me to give her another quick one?” I suggested. Diane nodded gratefully and I soon had our daughter back in a warm and sudsy tub for another good scrubbing. A few moments later, she was again dry and dressed in another set of warm (and clean) pajamas, but still thirsty. “How about a drink of water?” I asked her (hoping to keep her nice and clean for bed).
“No, daddy. Could I have some orange juice, pleeeeeease?” Her little eyelashes fluttered at me. “Wel-l-l-ll,” I replied, glad that orange juice is her favorite drink. “Orange juice IS good for you.” I took her by her hand and led her into the kitchen where I promptly poured orange juice into her favorite pink cup. I carefully placed it into her little hands and received a beaming smile in return. “Thanks!” she exclaimed.
Just as I turned away to put the orange juice container back in the refrigerator, I heard the sound of her little feet running from the kitchen into the dining room towards the family room. Then the sound of her running stopped with a loud thud. I quickly ran over to her to see what had happened and found her lying in a pool of orange juice, looking very surprised and very wet. Diane, who also had instantly appeared, made sure that she was okay and that there were no “boo-boo’s” that needed kissing. Then, once again sighing heavily, she lifted the dripping girl from the sticky orange puddle. “Well, here we go again,” she said. “Come on, sweetie. Let’s get you cleaned up.” She then gave our daughter bath number three. I sighed, too, and began to mop up the orange juice mess before some unsuspecting soul wandered through it.
I smiled to myself as I considered how this was actually a fairly common experience in our household. “But how can it be,” I wondered silently, “that someone has such a knack for getting so messy so often in such a short amount of time?” But then I thought of Jesus in the last few hours that He had spent with His disciples before He began His lonely trek to bear the horror of our sin on the cross of Calvary. Had He wondered the same thing?
“It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love. The evening meal was being served…. 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 13:1-2a, 3-5 NIV).
What an interesting statement: “having loved His own who were in the world”. And what an encouraging thought, especially when lonely moments of heartache and weariness leave us feeling as if we’ve been orphaned. The love which filled the heart of Jesus for His disciples and fills His heart for His children today is a staggering and awesome love. Think about it! Love is the only force in all of creation that could cause the mighty knees of our Savior to bend as He reached down and grasped the dirty feet of those twelve men and washed their clinging grime away. Just why would He, the Master, condescend to wash the feet of those who had been called to serve Him? Simply to show them, as it says in John 13:1, “the full extent of His love”. And it is clear, as one might suppose, that the disciples were incredulous.
“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, ‘A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean…’” (John 13:6-10 NIV).
Peter doesn’t yet fully comprehend what the Lord is up to, but he wisely submits to it and does so with admirable commitment. Through this living object lesson that our Lord preserves for us in the Scriptures, Jesus unravels a fundamental truth to which we each should cling: sweet fellowship with our God necessitates His frequent cleansing of our lives. Not in the same sense that we are cleansed from our sin as we initially come to Him, when He purifies us of the corruption within our very souls and instills in us the holiness of His approval and makes us spiritually new. This other kind of cleansing, pictured by the cleansing of the disciples’ feet, has to do with recognizing that, although we are not of the world, we still walk upon it. We still have a tendency to fall short in our devotion to our God, mostly due to those moments when we become distracted, proud, bitter, as we are influenced by a world that is hostile to God.
What does this have to do with my daughter needing frequent visits to the bathtub? Just this: my wife and I recognize that our preschool daughter, in her young exuberance, will spill her drinks on just-cleaned clothes, fall in puddles of mud, cover herself with marker pens, and make “interesting discoveries” in the back yard. And when she does, this dear little girl will still be Diane’s and my sweetheart. We’ll just clean her up and hug her, as the sweet smell of her child’s shampoo, though rinsed off, lingers in the air.
And just as we can “see it coming” in regard to our daughter, God also recognizes our propensity to occasionally step into attitudes or deeds that, if not dealt with, can render us unfit for unfettered fellowship with God. Remember that if God has saved you FROM sin, then He has saved you FOR worshipful fellowship with Himself. You just sometimes need to get your spiritual feet cleaned up before you go into His presence (in prayer, worship, and service): it is, after all, holy ground! Let Him wash you anew each day so that your walk with Him will provide Him the sweet smell of your love, as you linger in His presence.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NIV).