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.
2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 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.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 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.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 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. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Personally, I find this one of the most moving stories in the gospel John wrote. It's definitely one of the most memorable. This was the night before Jesus' betrayal, trial and crucifixion, and was an intense moment in Jesus' life.
He had drawn His public ministry to a close, and would now turn all of His attention toward His disciples.
Let's imagine being right there with Jesus and the disciples, OK? In the culture surrounding this room, the most demeaning, most menial task around was to wash the feet of the guests in the house. It was something that the lowest of the slaves did. And it was necessary . . . think about it -- people wore sandals, and did most of their traveling by foot. The paths and Roman roads that they walked were dusty, sometimes muddy, and cluttered with camel, oxen and donkey manure. (I know, right?)
I'm certain that many guests arrived with more than just dust or mud on their feet!
It was a commonplace courtesy for the host to make certain that his slave washed the guests' feet as they arrived.
Jesus had sent Peter and John ahead, to prepare for the meal. Well, the food had been cooked and the table was set; the lamps were lit. But this had not been taken care of!
As Jesus and the disciples enter the room, they see a towel and a basin of water in the corner, but no slave to wash their feet -- some of them might have paused as they entered, wondering why Peter and John had not taken care of this. Then as they recline at the table, they feel a little awkward. "Somebody ought to at least wash Jesus' feet . . . but if I do that, where does that put me in the "pecking order" here? I guess I'd be at the bottom of the heap. I might even end up stuck with the job from now on! Best that I don't volunteer and have that happen. Maybe if I just wait a minute more, someone else will do it."
Hmmmm. Have we heard this anywhere else? Have you heard this at church? Wellllllll, yeah, that kind of thinking does happen.
"Somebody needs to take care of nursery this week, but that's not my ministry I signed up for."
"Wow, someone dropped the ball on cleaning the bathrooms, what's up with that? Who's gonna take care of that?"
You see, we are all very good at pointing out the fact that there are dirty feet that need cleaning. But are we good at being selfless enough to volunteer to wash them?
We are probably very much like the disciples -- they were each probably hoping that one of the others would volunteer. They might have been thinking like this:
"I did it last time; it's Matthew's turn. He hasn't done it in a long time."
"Peter and John were supposed to make all of these preparations. Jesus told them to! One of them should take care of it."
"I'm over here leaning next to Jesus. I don't want to leave."
"I'm a leader. Not a foot washer."
"Don't you turkeys know the call of God on my life? Remember? I'm the one who answered Jesus' question, and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Jesus prophesied about me right then! If people were paying attention, they'd be washing His feet and mine!"
Things haven't changed much in the family of God, have they? We say and do and think the same kinds of things today.
So everyone knows that there are dirty feet.
But no one wants to volunteer to wash them.
We'll explore this more next time......join us, won't you?