The God Who Washes Feet

John 135 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 13:1–11 (ESV)

1 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. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 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, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 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. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 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.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 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.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Before the meal, Jesus did something unexpected. He washed his disciples’ feet. This turned contemporary expectations upside down! Jesus was the teacher. He was the master of this group. It was the job of the students to wash Jesus’ feet or do the work of servants. At least, this is what the culture of the day said. However, Jesus tied a towel around his waist and washed feet.

Peter realized that this was not right. This is why he asked, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus’ reply pointed forward to a greater service that Jesus would do for his followers. Jesus was getting ready to go to the cross to die for his people. Philippians 2:6-8 reflects on Jesus as servant as he willingly died for mankind:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus had to become a servant for his people or we could not be saved. We had to be “washed” by Jesus through his sacrificial death or our sins could not be cleansed. The Creator came into the world to be our servant. He put aside his glory and died as a criminal on a cross. Jesus paid the price that we never could and unless we are washed by him, we remain unclean. As the great hymn says, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

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