The Gospel of John Chapter 13:1-17
“Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.”” (Joh 13:10)
He was fully aware of who he was, he was from God, he was God, and would return there soon. The nature of who he was overwhelmed him as he faced his greatest trial. As he sat before his young friends he was bursting with Love, for all of them. They would abandon him in a matter of hours, and he knew it. Peter would almost destroy himself in it. Judas would do worse.
Even as the Spirit when he hovered over the deep in the beginning, bursting to create, anticipating an explosion of cosmic love, so Jesus was compelled, he could not, did not want to, resist it. He stood up after the passover meal and acted out his love and loyalty to the end, to the extreme. He mirrored the cross, he poured himself out. It is his nature. It was Kenosis.
He took off his robe, his outer clothing, and stripped down to his loin cloth. Eyebrows would have gone up all over the room. Some of the boys would have turned away. This was embarrassing. The only time any of them saw anyone in this state of undress was when they witnessed a slave at work. He became a non person, with no rights, and no dignity, he couldn’t help it, it is is his essence, Love is humble, it empties itself out.
Grabbing a bowl and some soap he turned to the first pair of exposed feet nearest to him, probably to John, and he began to wash the young man’s feet. The boy was shocked beyond words. As Jesus dried his feet with the towel that he had wrapped around him he was a stone statue, speechless. There was a stunned silence in the room as divine Love exploded quietly among them. It was extreme, it was staggering, it was too much for Peter.
“You’re not doing this to me!” said Peter. Jesus told him he would soon understand, “still, I’m not allowing it, no way!” Jesus told him to allow it or not be a part of him, it was a stark choice. In other words, he told Peter that this was who he was, and if Peter wanted to be connected to him then he had better allow Jesus to be who he was. He had to allow Jesus to be humbled Love, and he had to allow himself to be part of that Love always.
Peter wanted everything then. “Wash all of me!” “I want to be part of you, I am wholly yours; wash every part of me!”
“To be entirely clean,” said Jesus, “a person (who has already had a bath) only needs to wash his feet.” The cross would cover all of our sin, that was our bath, but guilt, remorse, and shame have a way of sticking. The parable that Jesus was enacting was to be a constant reminder that it is all taken care of and nothing need remain. This is important for if we feel something, or any part of the failure remains, then that is where our focus will be. And that is not what it means to be washed by Christ.
I don’t believe that our present or future moments of failure are not completely paid for, neither did Jesus, the cross covered it all, past present and future, but he would need to remind his disciples that their sin was covered and that their focus needed to be his love for them and not their downfall. Thus footwashing. It would be very relevant for all of them in a few hours, as they kicked up dust when they ran away from Gethsemane.
Sometimes we feel that the grime of a recent failure is still stuck between our toes. We may have a sense or a hope that our sin is “covered,’ but we need to understand that it is all gone. A gentle coming of the Savior to wash our feet, perhaps even through another, is a reminder of that. All is covered, all is washed, all is paid for, all is redeemed, so go rejoice.
I remember watching a sheep shearing when I was a kid, I was probably on holiday in the countryside with my family. The sheep were being relieved of a heavy winter’s worth of wool. After they came out of the grip of the shearer, the took off running. Many of them began to realise that their shoulders no longer carried the woollen burden. They literally leapt into the air in sheer joy. Their joy was infectious, there were grins all round. I remember the feeling of shared relief and happiness.
I have some rather exuberant friends. I am learning that the freedom to they feel to whoop and holler, to jump and spin, and to laugh and shout is actually a sign that they know they have been relieved of their guilt and that they are clean. In those boisterous moments they are not focused on their failures they are overwhelmed with the joy of the one who rescued them from every stain. Boy, I need to learn that. I need to understand that the desire of the Lord Jesus for me and all his own is that we focus on the blessed solution to our problem not on the problem itself. It is only one degree of separation from reality, but it leaves me, still weighed down, and still sad over my mistakes.
The event in the upper room was a mirror of Calvary, the ongoing practice of footwashing was a reminder of the extremity of the love of Christ, and it’s perfect power to clean us.
What ever form the foot washing takes, whether a literal foot bath administered by a friend, or a gentle hug accompanied by the words “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe, sin had left it’s crimson stain, He washed it white as snow!” Or words to that effect. The result will be the same. We will be reminded of a love and a loyalty that reaches the extreme. And we will be released to dance not lament.
To change the metaphor; our God is a volcano of mercy, his greatest eruption was the cross, and the burning lava of cleansing love that destroys all corruption before it, still flows in this world. Having been caught up in that flow how can it be right for us to live with our eyes on the ground. We must be looking constantly to the burning mountain before us, and see at it’s pouring peak the form of a cross.
“For God so loved the World He gave his one and only Son.”