Summary: Humility and servanthood are the biblical pathway to genuine greatness. Jesus teaches this by example and precept as He washes the disciples feet.
What to Do with Dirty Feet
Intro: Text: John 13:1-17
13:1It 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.
2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
7Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."
8"No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet."
Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."
9"Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"
10Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." 11For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. 13"You call me `Teacher’ and `Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
This story is one of the most memorable incidents in Bible. It was the night before Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion. It was an intense time in Jesus’ life. His public ministry had ended. Jesus now turns his full attention to his disciples.
I want you to imagine this situation with me for a moment. In that culture the most demeaning task around was to wash the guest’s feet. This was job done by lowest slaves.
It was necessary because people wore sandals did most of their travel by foot. They walked along trails that we not only dusty but also cluttered with camel and donkey dung.
I’m sure that guests arrived with more than dust on their feet. It was a common courtesy for the host to have his slave wash the guest’s feet as they entered the house.
Jesus had sent Peter & John to prepare for their meal together.(1) The food had been cooked. The table had been set. And I’m sure the disciples thought this matter would be taken care of as well. It wasn’t!
As Jesus and the disciples enter the room they see towel & water basin in the corner. They do not see a slave to wash their feet. Perhaps some of them pause as they enter the room, wondering where the servant was—maybe wondering why Peter and John had not taken care of this important detail.
As they recline at the table, each disciple feels a little uncomfortable. “Somebody ought to at least wash Jesus’ feet. But—if I do that, where will that put me on the social pecking order?
I would be at the Bottom of the heap. If I volunteer I’ll get stuck with that job from now on.
Maybe if I just wait—somebody else will do it.
If you’ve been in church more than week, you know that kind of thinking does occur at times.
“Somebody needs to take care of the nursery, but that’s not my ministry. Somebody needs to clean those bathrooms, who dropped the ball on that?”
I think maybe each disciple was hoping one of others would volunteer.
Each one may have begun to JUSTIFY in own mind why it was not his job to do it.
“I did it last time—its Matthew’s turn—he hasn’t done it in long time.”
“Peter and John were supposed to take care of all this-Jesus told them to. One of those guys ought to take care of it.”
“I came to enjoy a time with the Lord—and now we’ve got this problem”