Washing Feet

December 13, 2015   John 13      Washing Feet  


    Is God arrogant because God wants and tells us to worship him?   Is God humble?   How do we define if someone is proud or humble?   Is it humble to always put yourself down?     I think one way to define humility is to say that the person does not spend a lot of time thinking about him or herself.   Bishop Robert gives his definition of humility as it relates to people.  He says.   What is humility?  It is that habitual quality whereby we live in the truth of things: the truth that we are creatures and not the Creator; the truth that our life is a composite of good and evil, light and darkness; the truth that in our littleness we have been given extravagant dignity.  Humility is saying a radical yes to the human condition.   — Bishop Robert F. Morneau,   I think Paul lived an element of the bishop’s definition.  The Apostle Paul said I am the chief of sinners but he also said follow me as I follow Christ.  Paul also wrote I labor more than any of them but it is God’s grace in me. 

      Tom Krattenmaker, shares, “A Witness to What Faith Can Be,” printed in the USA Today (December 18, 2006).  He writes    On Friday nights, volunteers from Bridgetown Ministries help the homeless people gathered under the Burnside Bridge in Portland, Oregon.   In addition to providing hot meals, shaves, and haircuts, some of the volunteers wash the homeless people’s feet. Tom Krattenmaker, a writer for USA Today, was stunned when he saw that, calling it “one of the most audacious acts of compassion and humility I have ever witnessed.”   This group of society’s outcasts had their bare feet immersed in warm water, scrubbed, dried, powdered, and placed in clean socks.  One man reported with a smile, “I can’t find the words to describe how good that felt.”   Krattenmaker later wrote, “Washing someone’s feet is an act best performed while kneeling.   Given the washer’s position, and the unpleasant appearance and odor of a homeless person’s feet, it’s hard to imagine an act more humbling.”   The leader of Bridgetown Ministries prepares volunteers for this ministry by saying, “When you go out there tonight, I want you to look for Jesus. You might see him in the eyes of a drunken person, a homeless person . . . we’re just out there to love on people. 

     Paul in Philippians 2 speaks about the humility of Jesus and uses Jesus as an example for us today.  The bible says that we should "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.   Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross.    He made himse3lf nothing.    

     So here is Jesus in the upper room with his disciples in the last minutes of our Lord’s life.   Jesus knows what is going to happen.   Some people might think that these thirteen men were helpless and hiding from the wrath and fury of the religious hierarchy and Roman might.   But in reality, reclining in that tiny upper room was the power center of the universe.   In reality all power in heaven and earth belonged to Jesus.  Jesus was not the helpless victim of some sinister plot to kill him.    He was the willing, voluntary Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.  Why did Jesus do it?   Jesus looked at his disciples and said in his heart, “You are why I will pay this price.”   He looked down through the ages and saw you and me and said in his heart, “You are why I will pay this price.” 

     In John 13:2 we read that the evening meal was being served.  Everyone is there and the food is there.   Everything is in order except one thing.  Their feet were dirty.  It is spring time and the spring rains may have made the roads muddy.  The disciples and Jesus are in the upper room.  We would think that the disciples were aware of the need.    Their feet are dirty and probably smelled.   The disciples are reclined in such a way that you could likely smell the feet of the next person.  Everyone would be on the floor reclining.  As they got to the upper room the disciples probably looked around for the customary slave that would wash the feet.  No slave is there to wash their feet by design.  Some wives and children would also wash feet but they are not there either..   The disciples probably saw the basin of water and the towel that was there but chose to ignore it.  The disciples of the rabbi could do anything to attend to the rabbi except the sandals and wash the feet.  That was considered too degrading.    Everything is in order and ready but there is one issue and that is dirty feet.  You would think that one of the disciples would step up to the task.  There is always a need for servants. 

     None of the disciples will address the issue.  Perhaps they even argued about it.  Well I am not going to do it one might say.   Why didn’t one of the disciples do that?   Perhaps we have a clue from Luke 22 because Luke tells us about an argument that arose amongst them as to who would be greatest in the kingdom.   I suspect that none of them wanted to assume the position of washing the other’s feet.   In the disciples eyes it might have placed them at the bottom of the pecking order.  That is not how Jesus saw it.   None of the disciples were secure enough in who they were to embrace the job of a servant.  None of them had the understanding of the great privilege it is to serve others.

    There is a lot of competition between the disciples and it is certainly an interesting mix among the men.  Jesus calls some fishermen and Levi a tax collector.  Every list of the disciples in scripture Peter is always listed first and Judas is usually last.  The first Simon Jesus calls Peter.  The second apostle called Simon may have been a zealot and the zealots hated Rome and hated tax collectors.  There was James and John the sons of Thunder as they were called.  Let fire fall from heaven they said once.  Peter, James and John were the inner three.   And there was Judas a thief who betrayed Jesus.  

     I suspect there was a fair amount of tension during this time.  Perhaps the disciples were arguing about who was going to wash the feet.   Who is going to be the servant and do the dirty work?   Jesus knew that his time had come.  In a few hours he would take the sin of the world upon him.  He would be rejected and scorned.   He would be spit upon and mocked.  They would whip him and he would be put upon a cross and die.  The physical pain he would endure was enormous and no one can comprehend the spiritual suffering Jesus would endure. Satan the enemy was around.   It is at this meal that Jesus looked forward to be with his disciples.   But it was also this meal that Satan would enter Judas.  Even in the times we look forward to the enemy can be around. 

    There in that upper room Jesus assumes the most humbling task in that culture.   Remember John the Baptist said I am not worthy to untie his sandal.  Jesus gets up and takes off his outer garment.  That is a great act of humility.  Perhaps it would be like men taking off your jeans in front of other men at a meal.  It would be embarrassing or humbling.    Jesus bows before the disciples and washes their feet.   Jesus bows down before the disciples.  At the last supper in just hours Jesus is going to die a horrible death.  We can’t fathom what Jesus is feeling at this point.  It has to be the worst time for him to serve others.   Jesus was facing tremendous stress.  It would seem that Jesus never looked out for himself and never put himself first. .  

      So Jesus, in his last hours on earth, humbles himself like the lowest of slaves and washes the disciple’s feet.     In John 12:23 the hour has come that the son of man should be glorified.    John 13:1 Jesus knew that his hour had come.   John 17:1 Father the hour has come.    From the human point of view a lot of suffering was going to come upon him but from the divine point of view it meant glory.   Jesus knew where he came from and where he was going.   Jesus knew his hour had come and that he would be betrayed and that he would die on the cross.    Christians know about eternity and we do not need to fear death.    That can give you and me strength and a little bit of zip in our lives.   How blessed we are as Christians.  

     This thought is so deep and so hard for us to grasp.   Here is the sinless creator God washing his self centered sinful disciple’s feet. It is unthinkable that Jesus would do that.  It is amazing and beyond our comprehension.   Jesus never gave up on his disciples.     In John 13:3 scripture says that Jesus knew that the father had put all things in his power.   Wow!     Jesus had all authority not only for everything on earth but in heaven.   Jesus said in Matt 28 I have all authority in heaven and on earth.    Everything was in his hands and yet he picks up a basin and towel and goes to work.    Wow.  Could you imagine Solomon washing the feet of others?    How about the president of the United States?    How about a general?    How would the general’s men feel about a general who washed their feet?   Here is almighty God our creator washing the disciple’s feet.  I hope the disciples got it.  I hope they understood it.  It is hard for us to imagine and it is hard for us to grasp.   When this grips people’s lives it just makes us want to serve.   It is an amazing act for God the creator to so humble himself and serve us.    Do you see the heart of God here?    Do you see the love of God for you in this passage?    This is such an example of humility and we need to embrace it and wrap our arms around it.  

         What was in the mind of our Lord as he washed the disciple’s feet?    Simon Peter was the rock and the spokesman for the disciples.   He was one of the inner 3 but Jesus knew that Peter was going to betray him and Jesus knew that all of his disciples would forsake him.    Peter would fail and not stand with Jesus in the last hours of Jesus life.    What was Jesus thinking when he washed John’s feet?    John was the disciple that Jesus loved.   And there was James.   James and John were the sons of thunder.   There was Thomas the doubter.   I wonder if Jesus was frustrated with Thomas as he washed his feet.  After Jesus rose from the dead it was Thomas who said unless I touch you Lord I will not believe.   I was thinking about Thomas the other day.  Thomas saw Jesus walk on water.   He saw Jesus feed thousands of people with almost nothing.  He saw Jesus heal thousands of people and still did not believe.  If anyone was out in lift field it would seem to be Thomas. 

   And there was Matthew the tax collector.  His name meant gift of God.   Jesus certainly gave him a new life.  I wonder if Jesus was thinking about how the disciple’s had missed the point of the last 3 or so years that he had spent with them.   Jesus modeled servant hood but the disciples did not get it.  People do not get it today.  Generally speaking we do not understand serving and how important it is to serve.    Jesus even tells them in this passage you do not know what I am doing now but later you will get it.   It is good to get it isn’t it?  

     And what did Jesus think when he washed Judas feet?    In a few minutes Judas leaves them.   In a few minutes Satan enters into Judas and Judas will betray Jesus.   Satan who tempted Jesus in the beginning of Jesus ministry as he fasted for 40 days and nights and Satan of course on the scene in Jesus last hours and in between also.   No rest from the enemy.   Jesus knows that he is going to be betrayed and Jesus tells the disciples.  One of you will betray me Jesus said.   How do you treat your enemy?   How did Jesus treat Judas?   Jesus washed his feet.   What kind of emotions and thoughts went through Jesus mind as he humbles himself before his betrayer?     How much love poured forth from Jesus to Judas?    Jesus shows us tremendous humility in this passage.   Generally speaking we shy away from our enemies.   Certainly most would not serve their enemies.   God in a sense serves every person every day even those that hate God.    Jesus humbled himself and made himself of no reputation.  

     I think this is a great example of manliness.   Jesus was secure in his manhood.   He was secure in himself.  Jesus is going to obey God.  Jesus is going to do the right thing all the time no matter the cost.   Usually in front of others we liked to be exalted and lifted up and yet Jesus takes the high road of humility and humbles himself to do the lowest of menial tasks.     He washed the disciple’s feet because he knew who he was and Jesus knew where he was going.      He was secure in himself.   He was not worried that his lordship would be challenged, lost or tarnished in any way.    He was not less of a man by serving.   Indeed he said the greatest would be the servant of all.       Jesus tells his disciples that they will be blessed if they do these things.  Jesus told his disciples if you want to be blessed follow my example.  Has Jesus washed your feet today or this week or this year?   Has he answered prayer, forgiven your sins, protected you and blessed you?  Thank Him.