Today’s post is written by my friend Tina over at *Spaghetti Pie*. Be sure to stop by her blog and give her a warm welcome! I know you’ll love her as much as I do. 🙂
John 13:1 – 17 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.
The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, 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.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Jesus 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.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
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. I tell you the truth, 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.
Feet. Calloused and filthy, emanating a faint odor of earth, sweat, and manure.
I know, not a great mix with your morning coffee, huh? What about while you’re sitting around at dinner?
As Jesus entered the last days of his time on earth, that’s exactly where he found himself: at dinner with dirty feet. But leave it to Jesus to turn stinky feet into a teaching opportunity about community.
Community requires Commitment
I love how this passage begins. Jesus knows his time on this earth is coming to a close, and he chooses to love his disciples “to the end.” The phrase indicates that he loves them completely – both in time (all the way to the end of his life) and in perfection (his love for them is complete). In one three-word phrase he lays down a fundamental requirement of community: commitment.
When life is overwhelming and stressful, I tend to withdraw and focus on myself. I figure if I hunker down and shut out distractions, then once I make it through the difficult or busy time, I can emerge and expend energy on others again. Here Jesus shows a different model. He knows what’s coming. He knows one of his friends will betray him. And he still chooses to love until the end.
Community requires Sacrifice
Next we see Jesus leaving his supper on the table and changing out of his clothes. The symbolism in this small act runs deep. Not only does he literally change so that he can wash the disciples’ feet, but we see him setting aside his rightful role as Lord and Teacher for that of a servant. We are also reminded that he stepped down from his place with God to become like man. He deserved to sit in the seat of honor, but he chose to kneel as a servant and wash feet.
Community requires that we set aside ourselves and humbly serve others. Sometimes that means changing diapers or bringing a meal to a new mom who needs a break. Or setting aside a busy schedule to make time for coffee with a friend who needs to talk. Or forgoing a new outfit to buy groceries for someone who is struggling. We don’t get to choose only the glorious sacrifices that ultimately make us look noble. We’re required to wash feet, too.
And you know what? Sacrifice is also required by the receiver. When Peter’s turn arrives, he initially refuses. His pride darkens his understanding of why Jesus is washing feet. I am the worst when it comes to receiving help, even when the act is something as simple as cleaning up after a meal! I don’t always exhibit the humility required to graciously accept someone’s help. But here Jesus shows that community also requires letting my feet be washed.
Community requires Cleansing
Finally we get to the meaning of the foot washing. Jesus tells Peter that without clean feet he cannot enter into fellowship with him. He’s not referring to salvation (bathing the whole body), but rather the daily cleansing of our hearts. Sin separates us from the Father, and without a connection to him we cannot truly love one another. Confessing our sins and cleansing our hearts allows our love for one another to come from an overflow of love for God, rather than empty acts that we muster up to look like love.
Sin also separates us from others and acts as a barrier to true, authentic relationships. The obvious issue is when we sin against each other, and leave it unresolved, neither confessing nor asking forgiveness. But sin can also drive a wedge between us when we expend all of our energy trying to hide our sins from each other. We forget that in community we can walk through our struggles together, holding each other accountable, and encouraging each other along the way.
Dirty feet might not mix well with your morning coffee or your evening meal, but perhaps the next time you encounter them you’ll be reminded about the commitment, sacrifice, and cleansing required to build community. And you just might be prompted to wash them.
Dear Father, Thank you for your examples of humility, service, and love. Please help me to follow them.