READ: John 13: 1-10
How would you have spent your last night on earth?
For me, I would rent an executive hotel suite, bring out all my favorite food, listen to my favorite old songs, and spend the evening playing games with my family and closest friends. To end the night, I would hand each of them letters containing my last words to them.
This wasn’t exactly the same for Jesus. He and his closest friend stayed in a large upper room. There they shared a simple dinner—bread and wine. No background music, dramatic speeches or goodbye’s.
Of all the things Jesus could’ve done on his last night on earth, he chose to spend it washing the feet of his disciples.
“Jesus…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.”
Peter did not receive it so well, as he told Jesus who approaching him, “You shall never wash my feet.” (v. 8) In return, Jesus gave Peter a mild warning, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” (v.8)
Whenever I read about Peter, I always imagined him to be one of those die-hard, loyal-to-the-core right hand men you’d see in the movies. So it was no surprise when he responded, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (v.9) Then this is what Jesus said:
“The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.” (v.10)
During Jesus’ time, there were no closed shoes that would protect one’s feet from the ground that they walked on. To add, there were no cars back then so it would take them days on end to travel from one place to another. For these reasons, we can conclude that the disciples’ feet were dirty, dusty, and possibly smelly. So why wash their feet in the first place? And what did it mean to wash their feet?
When I read this verse in the past, I automatically linked this to serving others. While this interpretation still holds true (and there are several scholars who support this), today I looked at it as something more:
The washing of the feet is a picture of sacrifice, not just contained in that moment, but pointing to what he was about to do on the cross.
Jesus’ actions reflected that his desire was for us to be made clean. The feet were the dirtiest part of the body at that time, and the washing of feet was a task given to servants when guests would enter a house. As I read this passage again, I believe that Jesus was talking about something more than just clean feet. What he was referring to the part of us that needed cleaning the most—our souls.
The Bible tells us that Jesus washes away our sins (1 John 1:7). When Jesus came to wash our sins, he didn’t mean polishing of our not-so-good habits. He wanted a deep cleanse for even the dirtiest part of us—the core of our sinful nature.
At the heart of it, the point of the cross was not about making people better do-gooders. It was about making people who were dead and broken in their sins alive and whole again. The washing of the feet was just a taste of what all who believe in Him can experience.
If we looked to our actions and behaviors as the be-all, end-all way to get closer to Jesus, then we have missed the point. Rather, our actions and behaviors is our humble response because Jesus drew close to us, met us at our brokenness, and became the perfect sacrifice in our place.
What is one thing that has been preventing you, time and again, from drawing close to Jesus? Go to God and ask Him what to do.
Starting this week, plan out a daily schedule where you could draw close to God.