The Significance of Footwashing

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him,  Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”  Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”  Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him,  “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.”  For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?  You call me  Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.  I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled,  ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’  I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” 
John 13:1-20

We have read about how Jesus washed the feet of His disciples.
In those days it was common for homes with servants to wash the feet of their masters, family members and guests after a day of walking through the dusty dirty roads. A humiliating and degrading task. 

Of course some of us cringe at the idea of touching someone else’s dirty smelly feet.

Yet Jesus does this, surely surprising and bewildering His disciples. He got down on His knees and being as a servant, carefully washed each of His disciples feet until they were clean. When Jesus got to Peter I'm sure Peter tried to pull Jesus up from His knees saying he wouldn't let Him ever wash his feet, also believing it was degrading and humiliating. I suppose it would be as if Jesus went into your house and into your bathroom, got on his knees and started cleaning your toilet!

"Whoa Lord...what are you doing? Get off your knees, don't do that!"

Even we think He shouldn't be tending to such a personal and demeaning tasks as washing anyone's dirty feet. But Jesus tells Peter that if he doesn't allow Him, He cannot be a part of Him and His Kingdom, going against everyone's belief that the Messiah is someone who is worshipped and served as a King.

Jesus shows us otherwise that to be a true king means to be as a servant.

We all know of rich and powerful people who have numerous servants running around doing everything for them so they themselves don't have to do anything. Cooking their food, cleaning their homes, making their plans, driving them around, taking care of little details, doing dirty jobs, etc. Such are powerful people of this world back then and today.

But not Jesus. He is upending their and our beliefs about who God really is.

Jesus requests that the disciples wash each other’s feet and though Jesus knows that Judas will betray Him, He washes Judas' feet anyway, basically forgiving him.

By washing His disciples feet, Jesus has shown us how our relationship should be with each other. In humility and servitude.

Jesus is our own personal God. He created us, loves us, wants the best for us and is there doing everything for us. He has switched the roles. Instead of us serving Him, He is SERVING us! And because of this, we can only LOVE HIM MORE!

As we walk along any road our feet pick up all manner of stuff. When we climb up and down hills and valleys, walk through dirt, mud, thorns, waste, debris and jagged rocks our feet become filthy, scratched, and pricked with thorns. As any podiatrist and physical therapist knows, the health of our feet affect the entire body. If we can’t stand upright or walk correctly, we can stress our spine, which in turn affects the rest of our body. Even stepping bare foot on a tiny thorn could make us twist in pain and stumble to the ground.

Such is our spiritual journey with the Lord. We encounter the pain, the sin, the frustration and the evil of this world, which can alter our gait and stride, pushing us off, slowing us down and sidetracking our path towards God.

Jesus says, "The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet." By His Sacrifice we have been purified and forgiven. It is in our daily spiritual walks that we must diligently keep ourselves from being stained by the world, but we can only do so much and by sharing our spiritual lives with others, we help each other. This is why we meet at a church with fellow brothers and sisters because alone we cannot take care of ourselves.

Jesus never tells us to be a hermit or seek solitude alone for purity, but rather to be servants to each other. In doing so we purify each other. We watch over each other. So when we become stained, hurt or tainted by the world, we can be there to wash away each other's dirt.

Washing each other's feet is LOVE in ACTION.

In the same way that the idea of touching someone else’s feet is disturbing, so also is getting involved into someone else’s messy life, dealing with their sins, flaws, issues, idiosyncrasies, failings and unwillingness to change. Why do we have to get so personal? Why can’t we just be friends in Christ?

Because that is what it means to LOVE the same way Christ loves us.

Jesus says in John 15:15, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."

We are no longer even servants. We are Jesus' friends.

Early Christians came together as a community, shared what they had and were there for each other in spirit, prayer and action, encouraging each other in their new faith to persevere, grow and be strong.  

We must learn to love, support and forgive each other, warts and all.

And when we are truly loving people, we are as a family. We are behind each other and we will not abandon each other. This is the kind of LOVE that heals, teaches and blesses us to wholeness so we can be purer, stronger and better people of God. When we focus less on our own needs and tend to someone else's, all of us are blessed.

In this world, people only care for themselves. We no longer live in communes and we barely know each other let alone dealing with each other’s problems, issues and sins. We don’t really want to know about them, we don’t really want to hear about them, we don’t really want to deal with them.

But Christ commanded us to.

In Genesis when God asked Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” knowing that Cain had actually killed Abel. Cain answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Yes, we ARE. Jesus is asking us to be each other’s keeper.

We can see the sins and filth of others, but somehow, we can never recognize our own filth. We need our brothers and sisters to help us clean the dirt and grime that has accumulated in our lives. We need to be involved with our brothers and sisters lives to keep each other pure and blessed.

And it is not by judging, scolding, preaching and reprimanding, but through love, patience and kindness that we help each other, just as Jesus does for us. Just supporting each other in loving acceptance helps each of us learn, grow and feel blessed. Our love, as Jesus’ love, is what makes us white as snow. Our understanding, our forgiveness, our listening ear is what we all need from the Lord and each other.

Many of us are relieved that Jesus' commandment of foot washing was only symbolic, but if you think about it, looking after each other's welfare is a much more difficult and messy task. It means sacrificing our time, energy and money along with our patience, tolerance, endurance and faith.

And we also have to remember that as a member of the family of God, others have to deal with us and our mess, and some of us are no picnic either.

Jesus says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me." John 13:20

This means that we are all WITH JESUS. We and the Lord are ONE. No one is alone because we are all walking on the same journey to God together.

He washes our feet and we wash each other's feet. He takes care of us and we take care of each other so we will be clean and pure on the Day when He comes for us.



© 2018 Edrick

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