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…
“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand…”
“Unless I wash you, you have no part with me…”
“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.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean…
“Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
Excerpts from John 13, emphasis mine
Every time I’ve ever heard someone preach on this text, they’ve said it was about serving each other. Apparently it would have been customary at the time to have a servant wash your feet as you entered the house. The claim is that the disciples obviously didn’t get their feet washed when they entered the house, so Jesus had to suck it up and get his hands dirty and do the job of a servant.
Seriously… a token ceremonial cleansing ritual performed at the least ceremonial time (either right after or, worse, during the meal) is hardly the way for the Lord of Hosts to teach the benefits of service to his disciples, who had by this point seen him in plenty of humiliating situations, and would soon see him whipped and beaten and crucified. It’s even more ridiculous when you realize that he even says this isn’t about “clean”.
This was a Seder. These were good Jewish men who had just witnessed the triumphal entry of their rabbi into Jerusalem. If there was ever a time to be really into the ceremony it was this Passover. They were probably dipping their fingers with extra pomp and circumstance. In fact, I’m of the opinion that they were aghast at Jesus behavior explicitly because there was absolutely no reason whatsoever to wash their feet.
There is nothing wrong with service. I’m not trying to discount it at all. But this passage isn’t about service at all. He doesn’t say “Do you understand what I have taught you?” He says “what I have done.” There’s something real happening here. Why do we continue to preach that Jesus is basically saying “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, do other ceremonial token acts of service at inappropriate times.”
Jesus knew he was about to fulfill a millennia old promise. He was about to save the whole world from the destruction that sin, our sin, introduced. He was about to take all our rebellion and rejection of His Father and hold it to the cross while nails tore at his flesh so that it would be buried with him. The “time” he kept referring to every time he said “My time has not yet come” had finally come.
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…
Taught them a cheesy lesson about service? Performed a silly cleansing ritual when he had systematically detailed that there was no salvation in the practice? Are you kidding me?
This was an anointing, plain and simple. When someone enters an office of authority, their head is anointed. But who gets their feet anointed?
Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
This was why they had travelled with him, why he had taught them, why he had explained God completely to them, so that they would be the messengers. And more than that, they weren’t just to be messengers, they were to anoint each other. It wasn’t just the 12 at the table, or the 11 who greeted him after his resurrection. In the prayer that follows, Jesus goes on to show them that this will not end with his death, but instead, “it” will begin.
We aren’t spectators, we’re participants. Everything he has taught us is because he is sending us. Everything he has done for us is to show us how to do the same for others. Yes it’s about service, but it’s not about empty tradition. It’s about the single solitary purpose of fulling the great commission.
All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
It almost sounds just like the passage from John 13, but this is in Matthew 28. Quick back to John 13…
A new command I give you: Love one another.
This is the reason we have been cleaned. This is why he longs for us to have a part with him. We are his messengers. He is the Word.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Posted with : The Way