Have you ever attended a foot washing service on Maundy Thursday during Holy Week? Or have you had your feet washed by others on a special occasion. I have experienced both. The most memorable occurred when I was about to leave one of the churches I served as pastor. I had an emotional farewell with the worship team. During our sharing time, one of the members of the team went and got a basin of water and a towel. The team took turns washing my feet. I came unglued. I will never forget the experience.
The incident of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples on the night before his death is found in John 13:1-17. John tells us, “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 extent of his love” (v. 1). The Message reads, “…..he continued to love them right to the end.”
On this last night with his disciples, Jesus used the very humble task of foot washing to demonstrate the depth of his love for the disciples. Why foot washing – because the disciples could only sit and receive this deep expression of love by the Son of God. Jean Vanier notes, “We begin to discover who Jesus is. Jesus loves us utterly; he knows that we are afraid of being loved; afraid of love, and that we are afraid of God.” In the humble act of washing their dirty feet, Jesus is attempting to express love that needed to move from head to heart, so they could say, “I know that I am his beloved.”
One of the great liabilities for men is the movement of God’s love from head to heart. Imagine yourself in that room having your feet washed by Jesus. Could you freely receive his expression of love. Or like an ordinary man, would you want to do something in return or simply say I don’t deserve this kind of attention – “Just skip me.”
It was Peter, of course, who spoke up. The closer Jesus came to Peter the more nervous he became. He was not going to have his feet washed. But when Jesus said that washing was necessary, Peter wanted a full bath. Jesus reminded him that he was already clean. “If you’re had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you’re clean from head to toe. My concern, you understand is holiness, not hygiene. So now you’re clean” (v 10 – Message).
Peter, like so many of us, want a “quick fix.” We want to be clean. We are clean in the sense that we are secure in Jesus, cleansed by his blood. But there is a lot of cleansing that has to be done because of our fallen nature. This will take time. We will need strong doses of God’s unconditional love.
Peter obviously go the message. The humility of Jesus and our need for cleansing is expressed by Peter. “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud, but give grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’ ( I Peter 5:5-6).
Let Jesus love you in your stink. “For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Rom. 5:5).