Episode 1. A Foot Bath
Bitterness is something that we sometimes carry around in our hearts. And so often – we don’t even realise that this root of bitterness has taken hold in our lives. What is it and what can we do …
Just before He was betrayed, Jesus got down and washed the dirty, smelly feet of His disciples. Have you ever wondered how you’d react if He knocked on your front door tonight and offered to wash your feet? I’m not sure I’d be that keen to let Him do that … but as it turns out, that’s exactly what He came to do!
An amazing week coming up this week. Not just here on the program but in life generally as we head towards Easter. Here we are on the Monday before that Friday where we celebrate, oh maybe celebrate isn’t quite an apt choice of words here, when we remember that Jesus was nailed to that cross.
We call it Good Friday but back then it didn’t look too good, it didn’t feel too good and those days and weeks leading up to that fateful day, a day on which the whole of the history of humanity pivots. They were tense and dangerous days and for the disciples it was quite a frightening time.
And so today and over the coming days we’re again going to spend some time just travelling alongside the disciples, seeing what they saw, hearing what they heard and hopefully feeling what they felt. Why? Well that’s simple. Because I for one am sick of kind of just zooming through Easter as though it’s just a long weekend and a religious celebration, a time for some extra chocolate which truly I just don’t need.
No this Easter thing is huge, I mean it’s huge and my hunch is that as we walk beside the disciples, as we’re going to do by recounting the Apostle John’s account of events through the Gospel, my hunch is that Gods Spirit will touch our hearts with a fresh revelation and what it is that our mighty God was up to. And today we’re going to take a look at this thing that Jesus did of washing His disciples feet, what was that all about?
John chapter 13 beginning at verse 1:
Now before the festival of the Passover Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world and to go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world He loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Him. And during the supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off His outer robe and tied a towel around Himself.
Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciple’s feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around Him. He came to Simon Peter who said to Him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” And Jesus answered, “You do not know what I’m doing but later you will understand”. Peter said to Him, “You’ll never wash my feet” and Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share in me”.
So Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, not just my feet but also my hands and my head’. Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash except for the feet but is entirely clean and you are clean though not all of you’, for He knew who was about to betray Him and for this reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’
After He’d washed their feet and He put His robe back on again and He returned to the table He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done for you? You call me teacher and Lord and you are right for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.
Very truly I tell you servants are not greater than their masters nor are messengers greater than the one who have sent them. If you know these things you are blessed if you do them. I’m not speaking of all of you, I know whom I have chosen but it is to fulfil the Scriptures that “The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.” I tell you this now before it occurs so that when it does occur you may believe that I am He.
Very truly I tell you whoever receives one whom I send receives me and whoever receives me receives the one who has sent me.
So there’s Jesus, the Son of God, He washes the feet of His disciples on that night as they celebrated the Passover meal together in the upper room and literally just hours before He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was a difficult time, a dangerous time. I suspect the disciples had never celebrated the Passover quite in this way, with this dark cloud of danger and betrayal and fear and death hanging over them.
The thing we can so often forget is that they knew there were plots afoot to kill Jesus and they simple couldn’t imagine that happening after having seen Him do all the things He’d done. The miracles, the acts of kindness and after having heard all that He had to say, the wisdom and the truth and the love in His words. But that wasn’t all, they were afraid for their own lives too. Would they be arrested? Would they be tried and crucified too?
So they eat the meal, roast lamb with the bitter herbs and unleavened bread and they drink the wine and then Jesus gives them a foot bath. Now think about this, the Son of God girds up His loins, gets a bowl and a bath and washes their grubby smelly feet. And they were really grubby and smelly. These people had been walking out their on the roads with animal excrement and dust and dirt wearing just sandals. Who knows how long and how dirty their toenails were. I mean let’s get real here right?
This wasn’t some nice clean safe sanitised religious ritual. This was a grubby, dirty, smelly thing that Jesus was doing, washing their feet and He, the Son of the living God. Do you see how low He was prepared to bow? Do you see how humble He was? And He didn’t just wash the feet of those disciples who loved Him, He washed the feet of that one disciple, Judas Iscariot, who had already plotted to betray Him and sell Him out to the authorities. Judas the assassin who’d taken thirty pieces of silver for the life of Jesus. Jesus washed his feet too.
And Peter had the reaction that I think I would have had. Peter said to Jesus, “You will never wash my feet”. In other words, it’s just not right. You’re the Lord, you’re the Messiah, you’re the Son of God, what are you doing washing my feet? It’s not right. This reaction, it was a reaction against grace so Jesus answered him;
Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.
So Peter being Peter gets this quickly and dives in boots and all and says, “well Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head”. No Jesus was right, they didn’t understand what He was up to but this act of complete servitude, complete humility, complete stepping down off the throne of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and washing their feet was a symbolic act.
It was acting out the grace of the cross which was about to come. It was explaining in a way that one day they would understand looking back on it, what the cross was all about. Jesus became a nothing and a nobody. Jesus bowing His life down at our feet in order that we might be saved. And the whole point of grace is that it’s not right, it’s not just, it’s completely wrong, it’s completely the wrong way round that Jesus should have to suffer on that cross and to die for my sin and my rebellion and yours.
On that cross He died my death, the death that I deserve and yours. Completely unfair, completely the wrong way round and we could protest, we could say that’s unjust but no doubt He would answer:
Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.
Unless we accept what He’s done for us, He who knew no sin becoming sin so that we might be completely right with God, unless we accept that and trust in that and believe in that with all that we are then quite simply we will have no share in Jesus.