December 4, 2021
Scripture: 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. John 13:5 ESV
Observation: John introduces his account of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet by prefacing the time (during their seder meal on the eve of Passover), Christ’s unfailing love for all his disciples, and his self-awareness of his authority and Sonship (verses 1-5). Not surprisingly, Peter would misinterpret the symbolism of his Lord’s foot-washing ceremony and initially refuse to have his feet washed. Jewish tradition regarding hospitality included cleaning arriving guests’ feet. In the dusty, arid climate of Israel, sojourners often soiled their feet during their commute. In wealthier homes, the lowest-ranking servant typically washed visitors’ feet. So Jesus graciously responds by assuring Peter that this ceremony will make sense “afterward” (referring to his resurrection, ascension, and the sending of the Holy Spirit). In the typical fashion of his impetuous personality, Peter still emphatically refuses to let his Lord wash his feet. Jesus responds with gentle correction: “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me” (verse 8).
Takeaway: Peter, still missing the point, insists that the Lord wash his hands and head (verse 9). Jesus assures him that this is unnecessary and clarifies that they need to follow his example of humble servitude (verses 10-15). No pecking order, no preferential treatment for those in authority. All members of the body of Christ should serve one another. And this includes our relations within our families: parents to children, children to parents, and spouses to each other.
Our son, Joshua, and his bride, Ruth Ann, added a foot-washing ceremony to their wedding’s order of service as a means of symbolizing their commitment to serving one another all of their days. For the few unbelievers attending their marriage ceremony, the officiating pastor explained the significance of washing each other’s feet. Following Jesus’ example (who came not to be served but serve others and give his life as a ransom, Mark 10:45), they vowed to a lifetime together sacrificially giving of themselves to one another. Afterward, at the reception, a couple of unbelievers in attendance captivated by this added foot-washing element sought answers from those they trusted. That’s the beauty of our foot-washing Gospel. Its radical self-giving, sacrificial heartbeat powerfully witnesses Christ to those burdened by their self-seeking ways.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for giving us your Son, who faithfully served us, even unto death. Through the aid of your Holy Spirit, would you please empower us to put feet on your Gospel and go and serve one another as Christ has served us? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling