It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. ~ John 13:1
Feet. Would you agree they're fairly essential body parts? Without them, we’d be hard pressed to stand, walk, run, ski, rollerblade. Kicking a ball might prove difficult.
But honestly – feet can be ugly. And smelly.
Granted, there are some women who were just born with dainty little photogenic feet. They probably have no need to scrape and slough them with pumice stones, to spritz them with perfume, or to slather them with Intense Skin Repair Lotion with Shea Butter on a daily basis. But some of us do.
Then there are those of us who enjoy decorating our feet with brightly colored nail polishes, rhinestones, toe rings, tattoos, etc.
And c’mon, who doesn’t love pudgy, smooth-as-silk, baby lotion scented tiny, little baby feet?
Guys – sorry, but it seems you all are pretty much stuck with those Fred Flintstone appendages of yours. If you indulge in any of the aforementioned activities, that’s fine, but please keep it to yourselves. I really don’t want to know.
Our socks and shoes protect our feet from the elements and the environment. We have so many types and styles available for every season, event and activity. But back in the day – Jesus’ day – not so much. You had your basic leather sandals or else you went barefoot. Either way, that made for some extremely dry and dusty, filthy and funky smelling feet.
And yet, one evening long ago in an upper room, as Jesus and His disciples were in the midst of their Passover meal, their final meal together, these were the very body parts that Jesus chose to attend to at that moment. Not their hands or their faces. But their feet. Their dirty, dry, disgusting feet.
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. ~ John 13:2-5
In those days, the custom of foot washing was a courteous, hospitable gesture done for a person's house guests. The host would provide the water and the other necessary items, as well as the servant to take care of the guests. The servant performing this task was known as a doulos, the Greek term for bondservant, the lowliest of the low. And a bondservant was the role that Jesus -- Son of God, King of Kings, the Anointed One and Messiah – was born to play.
Jesus, the One the disciples called ‘Master’ and ‘Teacher,’ was showing these men another side of Himself. A tender, loving, compassionate and very HUMBLE side. As Jesus washed the feet of each of His disciples – and please keep in mind that included Judas, the one who would betray Him MINUTES later – His actions displayed pure and uncensored agape love. Redeeming love. Humble love. Jesus began to take on a new form to His friends.
He was now their bondservant.
When 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. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. ~ John 13:12-17
Why would Jesus do something like this? Something so lowly, humiliating, perhaps even embarrassing and obviously uncomfortable for the Twelve. Why? After all, Jesus was the Son of God. Throughout all four Gospels, people were either throwing themselves at His feet; laying things and people at His feet; or sitting at His feet. Yet here, we find Jesus exchanging that posture, placing Himself at the feet of others.
He explains His actions in verses 14- 15: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” Jesus wanted them to learn humility and loving service to others. And not just to learn and know these things, but to take action.
The world – our world – aspires to pride, domination and entitlement, no doubt more so today than it did back then. But Jesus wanted to show His disciples, His friends, as He longs to show us now, another way. A better way. His way. The Bondservant's way.
“If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” ~ John 13:8
Will you let Him? On this Maundy or Holy Thursday, will you find a quiet place of solitude, and take some time with Jesus? Will you allow Jesus to humbly kneel before you today and wash your feet? Will you refrain from being embarrassed and uncomfortable and crying out like Peter did, “No, You shall never wash my feet!”
And then, will you humble yourself even further, look around and ask yourself this next question:
‘Whose feet do I need to wash?’