John 13:1-17, 31-35
13 Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end.[a] 2 It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas,[b] son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
6 When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”
8 “No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”
Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”
9 Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”
10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet,[c] to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.
31 As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man[h] to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. 32 And since God receives glory because of the Son,[i] he will give his own glory to the Son, and he will do so at once. 33 Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going. 34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
Love. Wondrous love. It’s an amazing thing. I’m not talking about the warm, fuzzy kind of love that is merely a feeling you get. I’m talking about the deep, authentic love that God has for us and that we are called as Christians to share with one another. This kind of love is wondrous; it is a challenge to offer and it is a challenge to receive. Jesus spent his whole ministry offering this wondrous love to the people of the world—this love, which even took him down the road to Calvary.
On our own power, we can’t offer this kind of love because it is not in us. We are like an empty glass that can offer no refreshment until it is filled with thirst quenching water. We must be filled with God’s love before we can offer this wondrous love to others.
Jesus was full of God’s love and God’s love shaped everything about who he was and what he did; and on the final evening with his disciples before he was arrested, Jesus demonstrated who he was in a dramatic way—by washing his disciples’ feet. This foot washing was more than simply a cleansing of dirty feet. It is an act of self-revelation. By his actions, Jesus says to his Disciples—this is who I am:
1. I have enough confidence in myself that I can be humble and serve you.
2. I care about you and your needs.
3. And I am not afraid to be intimate with you
Look at John 13:3. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. Jesus knows who he is. He is the Son of God and his Father loves him. He knows he is about to be betrayed, and crucified, but he is full of love because he knows who he is. And he demonstrates who he is by what he does next. He gets down and performs the humble task of washing the dirty, smelly feet of his own Disciples.
Jesus is God’s Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords. You don’t expect to find him washing dirty, smelly feet. But Jesus is confident in who he is. He doesn’t need to prove anything to himself or anybody else. He’s not worried about what people think. All he cares about is what his Father thinks. And his Father loves him. Therefore, he is free to abandon ordinary etiquette between master and disciple and wash his follower’s feet.
We often fail to have this confidence. We want things done our way. We want people to serve us—to prove we are important. But we have nothing to prove. We are God’s children! He loves us. He loves us so much he sent His own Son to redeem us. Be filled full of that love—overflow with that love and you will begin to act as Christ acted.
I care about you and your needs
The second thing Christ tells us about himself by washing his disciples’ feet is that he cares about our needs. You know, you’ve got to really love someone if you’re going to mess around with their feet. Feet aren’t the most appealing part of the human body. My own wife doesn’t like to mess around with my feet! But the disciples—who walked around all day in sandals on the dusty roads of
filthy feet that needed to be cleaned and cared for. Jesus cared enough about the disciples and
their needs to set aside his rights as their master and stoop down and wash
You learn all kinds of spiritual truths as a parent of small children. When I was a teenager, I was appalled to see parents cleaning the snotty noses of little children. I couldn't imagine doing that; it just grossed me out. Then I became a parent and suddenly I was not only cleaning the snotty noses of my children, but also changing dirty diapers, cleaning up vomit, and doing various other common and disgusting duties of a parent.
Parents tend their children’s needs because of love! And that’s how God loves us. He loves us enough to cleanse us when we are the most unclean. He loves us enough to touch us when we are the most untouchable. And he says to us in verse 14: And since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.
Do you realize that Jesus already knew that Judas would betray him in a few short hours? Yet Jesus stooped and washed Judas’ feet the same as he washed the rest. Not because he felt like it, but because he loved him and cared about his needs.
We too have been cleansed by God. We have been filled with His love. That’s why we reach out and demonstrate God’s love to others—with our neighbors, with our co-workers, and especially with those whom no one else seems to care about. Even when the task is not easy or when it makes us feel uncomfortable, love compels us to stoop down and wash the dirty feet of those in need.
The third thing Jesus tells us about himself by washing his disciples’ feet is that he is not afraid to be intimate with them. You don’t get much more intimate than washing someone’s feet. It’s personal. But that’s who Jesus was. He got personally involved. He ate with sinners. He touched the lepers. He hugged the children.
And Jesus is intimately involved in the struggles we face. He cries with us; he laughs with us; he walks with us. And at the end of the day, when the dirt of this world is caked on our tired, aching feet, he is there to humbly bend down and wash our feet.
Are you willing to let God wash your feet? Are you willing to set aside your preconceived notions of who Jesus is and allow him be intimate with you—perhaps in a new way that makes you feel a little uncomfortable? Are you willing to accept God’s wondrous love for you? Or are you like Peter who said: “No, you will never wash my feet!”
Sometimes it is very difficult to be that intimate with God—to grant Him access to the most private areas of your life. But just as Jesus replied to Peter, he replies to us: “If I don’t wash you, you won’t belong to me.”
It is a challenge to accept God’s wondrous love, but we must accept it. Are you willing to let God wash your feet?