Posted by: davidbowerkingwood | May 1, 2017

Christians with Dirty Feet

The Washing of the Disciples Feet

In John 13 we are told a remarkable story; Jesus washes the feet of His disciples. The very next day Jesus was going to be crucified and He understood all too well what was coming upon Him; Jesus was being called on to do what we could not do for ourselves, pay the penalty for our sins by dying on the cross.

Does it seem strange that Jesus would take the time to wash the disciples feet on the night before His crucifixion? Of all the things He might have done He choose to wash their feet; on the surface this may seem rather incongruous but if we look at this foot washing episode from a spiritual perspective we begin to see answers to questions that are otherwise too obscure to explain.

Most of us understand the need for foot washing in New Testament times; open sandals and dusty streets equal dirty feet and usually arrangements were made to provide for foot washing when one entered the host’s house as a guest although this was not usually done by the host.

The Background

Let us examine this episode as described in John 13:1-17 where it is written:

13 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!”

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.”

Since they had rented an upper room there was no host to greet them or arrange for a servant to wash their feet; in most instances each guest washed their own feet with facilities made available by the host. One might speculate that no convenient facilities for foot washing were available as they entered the building or the upper room.

Since foot washing was a common practice at that time Peter and the other disciples would have understood the need for foot washing; what was it then that they would later understand? What was the lesson Jesus wanted to teach to them?

Next time: Lessons at Two Levels.


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