In John 13 we are treated to one of the most beautiful stories of Jesus – in which the Lord postures Himself in unthinkable humility. Here is the text:
1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 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.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “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.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
We are captivated by this story because it is truly remarkable to see the Creator of the Universe in human form, take the roll of a servant-slave, and perform an act of service such as this.
A little deeper reading of the text reveals a beautiful metaphor of the “washing” of sins away via the death of Jesus (which would happen just a few short days later).
While the elements of humble servant hood and salvation foreshadowed are the most commonly discussed and recognizable aspects of this passage (as well as feet being washed a metaphor of confession and repentance), I would like to extract perhaps a new and practical application…
…As followers of Jesus, we should be washing each other’s feet with our mouths.
Hang in there with me.
The Lord is shown loving deeply and sacrificially as He wrapped Himself in a towel, stooped to His knees, and washed the dusty feet of His followers. Humility, as He would show them, meant leading in love. It meant putting oneself in a vulnerable position for the benefit of others. It meant giving life.
Sometimes we need to give life by doing things we don’t want to do (or would not customarily be done) for others.
Sometimes we need to give life by being physically present with others.
Sometimes we need to give life by providing to others out of the abundance of our own blessings.
And sometimes…sometimes we need to give life with our mouths (our words).
“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” – 2 Corinthians 13:11
“Therefore encourage one another with these words.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:18
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” – Hebrews 3:13
Our tongues carry the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21), and when we choose to exercise that power righteously, our words are life to the hearers.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ are in continual need of receiving an infusion of life. We just are. This world and the lives we live in the temporal have a way of breaking us down, or shall I say, “making our feet dirty.”
For those of us in Christ, we have been made “completely clean” (Verse 10) by the “washing” of Jesus. There is nothing in the world, in our lives, that we can do, or that can be done to us – that can make us “dirty.”
But, we still have to walk around in the world. Just as the streets of Palestine made dirty the feet of the otherwise bathed and “clean” disciples, sometimes we get dust and grime on us in the world. We are clean through and through, but we may not feel clean (or worthy, or loved, or fill-in-the-blank). A loving word of encouragement can serve to wash the muck off our feet – and prepare us to ‘sup with our Lord.
Jesus said in Verse 15 that He has set an example for us – that we would do for each other as He had just done. There are few who take His words to mean that we literally go around washing each other’s feet all day. Leading with loving humility in all forms was clearly His “example.” He has washed us clean so that we can display Him to others, washing them by His life. I would suggest that perhaps the simplest, yet most profound expression of His Life to others is through words of love and encouragement.
Earlier in John, is found the following:
(Jesus says) “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” – John 6:63
“Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” – John 6:68
Jesus and Peter both proclaim that the “words” of Christ are “life.”
Saints, we are Jesus Christ manifest on the earth. We have been given the glory of living by Him, for Him, to Him and through Him. We have access to His mind, through His Holy Spirit indwelling us. When we speak the Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), our words are actually His WORDS – and they are LIFE to those we speak them to.
Let us resolve to follow the example set by our Lord Jesus Christ, and wash each other’s feet. Let us do this in as many ways as possible, as often as is set before us. Let us lead in loving humility with our words of LIFE.