Growing up in the tradition of the practice of foot washing, I am well aware of “doing likewise” as Jesus taught us in this extreme example of the Master becoming a servant to those He loves. But it wasn’t until later years that I began to grasp the “full extent” of His love without conditions, by mentally picturing Jesus bending down, moving the towel and basin into position to wash the feet of Judas, His own betrayer.
Is this what He meant by “love even your enemies”? And in love, without conditions, serve them as you would your friends?
John 13, The Message
Washing His Disciples’ Feet
13 1-2 Just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that the time had come to leave this world to go to the Father. Having loved his dear companions, he continued to love them right to the end. It was suppertime. The Devil by now had Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, firmly in his grip, all set for the betrayal.
3-6 Jesus knew that the Father had put him in complete charge of everything, that he came from God and was on his way back to God. So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron. When he got to Simon Peter, Peter said, “Master, you wash my feet?”
7 Jesus answered, “You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but it will be clear enough to you later.”
8 Peter persisted, “You’re not going to wash my feet—ever!”
Jesus said, “If I don’t wash you, you can’t be part of what I’m doing.”
9 “Master!” said Peter. “Not only my feet, then. Wash my hands! Wash my head!”
10-12 Jesus said, “If you’ve had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you’re clean from head to toe. My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene. So now you’re clean. But not every one of you.” (He knew who was betraying him. That’s why he said, “Not every one of you.”) After he had finished washing their feet, he took his robe, put it back on, and went back to his place at the table.
12-17 Then he said, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life.
IT’S A MATTER OF HOLINESS, NOT HYGIENE…
We can perform the act, but if we are not saved by grace, believe and commit to following Christ, living with a heart felt desire to be like Him, then our feet just take a bath. This cleansing from the heart side out to the tips of our toes means loving those who hurt us, continuing to serve the unlovely, showing everyone, even our betrayers, not just those we easily get along with, the full extent of Christ’s love in us.
Ah, this is tougher than we thought. It’s about more than a little embarrassment as some say, to take off your shoes in a public meeting, bend over and humbly wash each others feet. It’s getting past the awkwardness and realizing the holiness of the act that pulls us from our high and lofty pedestals of self, to bend down low, and move the basin in front of our friends and our enemies. It’s about showing the full extent of our love for our fellow travelers on this journey on earth…it’s about being more like 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…” (Phil 2, NIV)
“Do you understand what I have done to you?” “Live a blessed life”. –Jesus
Dear Heavenly Father, Save us from ourselves. We repent. You are God and we are not. Thank you, Jesus for your extreme, radical, not of this world, example of loving and serving without conditions. Thank you for loving us “right to the end.” Lead and guide us, by Your power within us, to go and do likewise. In Jesus Name, Amen. I believe.