Monday, March 29, 2010

John 13 - Washing Feet

by Katrina

LINK: John 13

John 13-17 is Jesus' "farewell address" to the disciples. This is his last evening with them, as later this night he will be arrested. These chapters consist of some final instructions, promises, information about the future, and prayer for the disciples and all who will come after them.

The setting of chapter 13 is the final meal Jesus will share with his disciples. Unlike much of Jesus' ministry, this is a closed group. Only Jesus and his disciples are in the room. There are no Pharisees or crowds to distract or challenge them.

Jesus washed the disciples' feet. Washing represents cleansing from sin. Jesus was demonstrating to the disciples that they were forgiven and cleansed from sin, yet they still had a need to "wash away" the sins of every day life. Jesus did point out that one of them (Judas) was not cleansed and really had no part with Jesus. He also told them that they needed to forgive each other as Jesus forgave them.

When Jesus told the disciples that one would betray him, they all looked at one another and had no idea which one he was referring to. Although Jesus pointed out Judas as the betrayer, the rest of them still didn't understand.

After the meal, Jesus explained (again) that he was about to die. God would be glorified through his death, and in turn God would glorify Jesus. In the meantime, Jesus instructed the eleven to love one another. It would be their love for each other that would demonstrate Jesus to the world. Peter didn't like Jesus talking about leaving and promised to go with him even if it cost him his life. Much to Peter's disappointment, I'm sure, Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him three times before the cock crows once.

When Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, he was demonstrating his humility. Here he was the master acting as a servant. It obviously made a big impression on Peter, and I'm sure it affected the others as well. No service to man was too lowly for Jesus to do.

Jesus was also demonstrating the need for continual forgiveness because we continually sin. He assured the disciples that they were cleansed; they were forgiven and given new life. But day-to-day life would involve more sin, and those "little" sins could not be ignored. They must be forgiven. He wanted the disciples to see their need for daily cleansing from God, as well as their need to forgive one another.

When he finished washing the disciples' feet, Jesus said, "If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. . . . If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them."

In our culture, we do not wash feet as they did in those days. People aren't walking everywhere on dirt roads with sandals on their feet (or barefoot). In Jesus' day, a servant would wash people's feet when they arrived at the house. We simply don't have this as one of our daily habits.

But what Jesus did wasn't normal in their culture either. The feet should have been washed before the meal, not during it, if this was the normal ritual. Jesus was doing something different here. Yes, Jesus was demonstrating humility and teaching us to be humble. And Jesus was teaching us to be forgiving toward each other. But maybe he was also saying that believers should wash each other's feet. Not many churches practice washing of feet. Any group of believers can do it. We have foot washing as part of our communion service. It truly is an act of humility. That's what makes it so hard to do! And it's awkward the first time, too (which is also humbling). But I can attest to the fact that those who do it are blessed by it.

Lord, teach us to be humble like Jesus. He lowered himself from his place of glory to become a man and lowered himself even more to death, even death on a cross. He took the punishment for sins he never committed. That is great humility! Help us to be humble and forgiving toward others, following the example of Jesus. Amen.
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