Summary: What does it mean to wash the feet of others? It means humbling yourself - you get down where the need is – and you do something about it. In our culture the need is not to wash feet as it was in Bible times. But there are many, many practical needs all a
24 hours to live
We’ve all heard the story about the man who received a phone call from his doctor. The doctor said, "I’ve got some bad news and some really bad news."
The man said, "tell me the bad news." The doctor said, "The bad news is that I got your test results back and you have only 24 hours to live."
The man is distraught, "24 hours to live? That’s terrible! What on earth could be worse than that? If that’s the bad news then what’s the VERY bad news?" The doctor sighs and says, ‘I should have told you yesterday’.
30-40 Years Left
Or how about the story of a woman called Shirley who had a heart attack and was taken to hospital. And while she was there she had a near-death experience. She saw God and asked, "God, Is this it? Is this my time?" And God said, "No, you’ve got another 30 or 40 years to live yet."
So as soon as she recovered, she decided to stay in hospital and have a facelift, liposuction and a tummy tuck. She even had someone come in and change her hair style and hair colour. She figured since she had another 30 to 40 years, she might as well make the most of it.
But when she walked out of the hospital after the last operation she got knocked down and killed by a bus. She arrived back in heaven and she said, "God, I thought you said I had another 30 to 40 years left?" And God said, ‘Shirley is that you? Sorry I didn’t recognise you’.
He knew his time had come
My point is this... if you knew that you only had 24 hours left to live and you knew at the end of those 24 hours you were going to die a violent death – what would you do with the time you have left? Would you go on a mad spending spree. Would you try and get even with all those people who had hurt you or abused you over the years? Would you want to spend time with your family, go to your favourite place one more time, eat your favourite meal - even if it is fattening! Would you want to be alone in prayer? Would you record some final thoughts as a keep sake for those left behind? To be honest, if I faced imminent death I would probably be totally pre-occupied about myself and what I’m about to go through – we probably all would. When faced with a life threatening situation our own sense of self preservation can get pretty strong.
But here we have the events of the last few moments of Jesus’ life. John 13 verse 1 says that, ‘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’. Did you get that? Knowing that his time had come... knowing that in just a few hours he was going to be arrested, beaten, bruised, whipped and crucified... knowing that in just a few hours he was going to endure the most violent death known to mankind... rather than being preoccupied with his own predicament... rather than wallowing in self pity... it says he took off his cloak put a towel around His waist and washed the dirty feet of His disciples.
Who’s going to waste time on that when the end is so near? Jesus. Why? Because despite everything, despite what he was facing, despite what he was about to go through, despite what he was about to endure, He wanted to show them how important it is to serve one another in humility.
The apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:3-8 that we should "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself..."
He humbled himself why? In order to demonstrate His love. It says that he now showed them the full extent of his love – how? By washing their feet. By His actions, by what he did Jesus showed that nothing demonstrates love more clearly than humble service to others.
Let me just say something about foot washing. In that culture the most demeaning task around was to wash the guest’s feet. It was job done by lowest slaves. It was necessary because back in those days there were no cars, or planes, or trains, or public transport. People went everywhere by foot and they wore sandals. They walked along trails that were not only dirty and dusty but also covered with camel and donkey faeces.