Summary: The extreme willingness to serve, seen in Christ’s washing of feet, sets the example for us.
He Washed Feet
March 19, 2005
Being servants is not a modern concept and is one that, frankly, we don’t appreciate all that much. We live in an age of ‘rights’ and when we try to fight for rights- when even students will go on strike to try to force a provincial government to do their bidding.
Against this backdrop, Christ’s action, prior to his death, and his setting an example for us, is unexpected and undesirable, even.
Please turn to John 13, and we’ll read through, together, and consider this, for our lives.
John 13.1- focus, initially, is on ‘his own’ and the love that he had for them, right to the end.
v.2-4-5- he washed feet. We know that this was a task normally done on entry to a dinner. One of the servants, and often the lowest or most junior servant normally did this. However, for some reason, this had not been done prior to this meal. I would imagine that there was someone involved in serving the meal, so can’t imagine that there were no servants, of the household, present. But, no one had attended to this detail- perhaps Jesus had given special instruction that it was not to be done by one of them; I can only speculate about that, of course.
Jesus poured water into a basin, removed his top garment, and did the job, acting as a servant- being willing to give up any loftiness of role in order to serve.
v.6-8- he came to Peter, and they conversed. Peter resisted his lord’s actions, not wanting his rabbi to stoop before him. He felt unworthy of such service from Jesus. However, Jesus had vision, in the whole process, and tried to help Peter toward that vision. He wanted Peter to understand that there was more going on here than met the eye. He spoke of not understanding, and Peter protested very strongly, then relented, very strongly, in order to show that he accepted Jesus- v.9. He wanted nothing to indicate that he didn’t have a part with Jesus- he was willing to accept and do whatever was necessary in order to be part of Jesus. He was willing to humble himself and to put aside his pre-conceptions about what was appropriate, in order to be clear, to himself, Jesus, and all watching, that he was part of Jesus.
v.10- what is this about? This speaks to our need for ‘touch ups’ on occasion. This speaks of our need to, as Dwight Moody, I believe it was, said to ‘keep short accounts with God’. We’re not to allow accumulation of dirt. We bathe when we accept Jesus and we show that acceptance in our baptisms- our coming out and joining with the greater Christian community. However, there’s an old nature that still holds sway in us, and we need to touch up, through repentance, on occasion. We all need to be diligent in our repenting- daily and several times through each day- so it’s only our feet that need cleaning. Feet, represent that which touches the common- we know feet are metaphorical for all that touches the unclean and the unholy and ungodly, and which needs to be cleaned through the cleansing activity of heartfelt repentance.
Now, Jesus explains, and this is where this lesson is very relevant to us today.
v.12- do we know what he did? Do we think of this very often? Do we allow the power of this lesson to go deeply within us regularly? Jesus asked, “What have I done?”
v.13-14- as the Teacher did, so we are to do. We know that the lesson is big and isn’t just about washing feet, although I have a hard time understanding why Christians, who understand serving, don’t want to wash feet- it symbolizes something wonderful. As the Teacher taught, so we get to do. There are many things Jesus did that we can’t do. We can’t walk in Israel, we can’t be in a boat on Galilee, and so on. However, here’s something he did, and we can do it, too.
v.15- Jesus gave us an example of how to be and something to do. Here’s an example of being a servant that is to permeate our entire lives. How do we let this come through our lives? I know that it’s difficult. Do we run from opportunities to do things for others? Do we run from opportunities to help? Are we ‘too good’ to help? In our churches, are we willing to pick up a chair, wash a dish, move a speaker, help in some way? Are we willing to help one another through listening and encouraging? I think that being here on time is a tremendous act of service. We are creating an environment for worship and having as few distractions as possible is an act of serving- so being early and settled prior to the beginning of worship is an important ‘washing of feet’, and something Jesus applauds. (I noticed, even last week, distraction and talking when church was starting.) I know this is what we’re working on, from the NCD profile- in Montreal- and, without reservation or exception, all of your Council members expressed praise for what has been accomplished, so far, in our weekly worship service. Let us all continue to contribute to this- let us each wash one another’s feet, in this way.