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.
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.
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, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their 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. 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.
From John 13:1–17 (NIV)
Do feet make you cringe? Maybe it’s the memory of having to clean your nasty feet after playing in the yard with no shoes. Perhaps you’re like me and aren’t a fan of touching someone else’s feet. But in the verses above, it’s not just the feet that make me cringe; it’s the fact that it’s Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Emmanuel, washing men’s nasty feet. He has no business doing this. It’s uncomfortable.
Peter would have agreed. Imagine the appalled look on his face as Jesus approached him with the basin. “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” (John 13:6 NIV). This wasn’t right to him. Christ shouldn’t have been cleaning their feet; they should have been cleaning his feet. Why wasn’t that the case?
These disciples were ready to give anything and everything for this man they knew to be the Savior. They trusted his every word and stood true to his side. But this was bizarre. What he was doing was a servant’s job; in fact, it was the least-favored servant who was tasked with feet washing. It wasn’t a dirty job; it was the dirtiest job. It was unfit for Jesus, unfit for the Son of God. Yet somehow it was a beautiful act of service. Jesus knew what was coming. He knew he was to suffer a criminal’s death, a crucifixion, the dirtiest, and lowliest of executions. Unfazed by the future’s events, he took the opportunity to instruct. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14 NIV). In one incredibly humble act, Jesus showed us our charge.
This humility would be especially hard to repeat for those first-generation Jesus followers. They had status. They had been one of the twelve chosen to follow Christ. This was surely beneath them. But Jesus addressed this too: “Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:16 NIV). Then the playing field was leveled.
This playing field remains level.
Nobody showers when he’s already clean, so how can you offer cleanliness unless you go where the dirt is? No bath keeps you clean forever, so how can you offer eternal cleanliness with earthly solutions?
The point isn’t that Jesus is offering cleanliness; he’s offering an incomparable purity. He’s offering newness before God, a life free from the bondage of sin. He’s offering cleanliness greater than any servant, master, or king can provide.
So during this Easter week, consider what you would do if Jesus washed your feet. Would you sit and do nothing, or would you try to spread the good news of this cleanliness? Once you’ve made up your mind, snap back to reality and remember . . . he didn’t just clean your feet.
He purified you from head to toe.