Jesus Washes Feet
John 13:1-20 ESV
In my mid-twenties I spent time working with Youth Ministry and I taught a weekly Bible Study. I once suggested doing an exercise where we would wash each other’s feet.
You would have thought I suggested something life threatening. The teens were mortified.
So, instead of actually washing each other’s feet, we did an imaginary exercise where they closed their eyes and thought about what it would be like to have someone wash their feet. Then we switched around and I had them imagine what it would be like to wash someone else’s feet.
The imaginary exercise was a success.
I think it was actually better than it would have been if they would have actually engaged in washing feet. Instead of being embarrassed and throwing water on each other, they took time to imagine what it would feel like to have some wash their feet. Then, they imagined what it would feel like if they washed someone’s feet.
Then I had them imagine what it would be like to have Jesus wash their feet.
Finally we discussed how they felt.
Most of them came to realize washing someone’s feet was a very personal thing.
We realized that washing someone else’s feet was a true act of humility. We realized we were serving the other person.
It was a personal act of service.
In John 13:1-20 Jesus surprised His disciples by serving them. “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. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, 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, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 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. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 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.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 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.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
It’s interesting than when Jesus washed His disciple’s feet, Simon Peter was the one who felt self-conscious about having Jesus wash His feet. We need to understand it wasn’t unusual for Peter to speak out because he was an out-spoken kind of guy.
It’s no wonder that Peter felt strange about it. Having their leader wash their feet was completely counter-cultural. They lived in a world where there were masters and there were slaves. Jesus was their master and they served Him.
When Jesus washed their feet they had to allow their master to serve them. Peter was the one who instantly realized ‘this feels strange’. Peter couldn’t resolve in his mind how it could be okay for his master to serve him.
Jesus had to convince Peter it was necessary.
Jesus was teaching His disciples by example what true servant leadership looks like.
Today we know servant leadership exhibits strength in humility. In Seminary I majored in leadership and one of the models we studied was Servant Leadership. The day when Jesus washed His disciple’s feet, He was teaching them what real love and humility looks like. He wanted them to see it from His perspective because He knew when He was no longer with them, they would lead.
Jesus knew from the moment He would be taken from them, everything would change for the disciples. Jesus also knew how difficult the next hours and days would be for them. He was trying to give them all the tools they would need in order to succeed.
I imagine if Jesus would have told them what the next year of their lives would look like they would not have been able to deal with what was ahead. According to the account of the early church in Acts, I would say Peter was the disciple who changed the most.
When Jesus told Peter “upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18), Peter had no idea what that really meant.
Ultimately, “upon this rock I will built my church” was exactly what happened. While the Apostle Paul became the academic leader that was needed to connect the churches with his letters and to act as spokesman with the Roman Government, it was Peter the Apostle who lead people with power and humility.
Peter struggled and failed, but in the end he learned how to serve. He learned how to lead.
I imagine that’s exactly what Jesus needed Peter to understand the night He washed his feet.
This…this is how it’s done, Peter.
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Wash Feet
Sit quietly and imagine Jesus washing your feet. Write down what you experience.
In God, Deborah