“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 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 13:3-5.
The progression of this text is crazy to me. “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that the had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. . .”—what I expect to come next is something like, “and then commanded everyone to worship him.” But that’s not what he does. No—Jesus, fully aware of his ultimate authority and rule, slips off his nice robes, grabs a towel, descends to the ground, and begins scrubbing feet.
God . . . scrubbing feet.
Now remember, these guys aren’t living in the days of temperature controlled socks and anti-fungal foot spray. They were walking around in worn-out sandals—and Jesus liked to walk around a lot. From town to town these men trod after their Christ . . . learning from him and listening intently as he taught others about the Kingdom. These feet Jesus knelt down to touch with his holy hands had followed him miles and miles and miles over the last three years. I’m sure they were severely calloused and just all kinds of nasty. Yet Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all dominion and power into his hands, puts his hands to work on these smelly, scaly feet.
I mean really stop and think about how weird this is. I have never heard of even an earthly king stripping off his fancy suit to get down and dirty serving those who are not only lesser in worth, but who have committed treason. The disciples were not innocent men. They were shown extraordinary grace that radically transformed them over time, and we tend to respectfully remember them with great honor and reverence, but don’t be fooled—they were not sinless. These guys were just like you and me. Their hearts and lives were full of sin. And shockingly, the King of Kings—the One they’d disobeyed—kneels before them to wash their feet.
I don’t believe Jesus is doing this because he thought a pedi before Calvary would be fun. I think that as he scrubs the fungus-ridden toes of these grungy, homeless men, he is showing the world one marvelous way he glorifies himself is by using all of his sovereign power to serve those who don’t deserve it.
Jesus glorifies himself by serving us. Let that sink in.
Mere hours after rising from the lowliness of washing the feet of sinners, Jesus descends even lower in his service to us by suffering Hell in our place. He takes off his robe of righteousness, fastens the garment of our sin tightly around him, and willingly lays himself down on that Altar as payment for our guilt. The King of all that is good and holy and perfect leaves his heavenly throne to swallow up the fire of his own fury for our sins. Why? To serve us. To cleanse us. To save us.
Our God is some kind of god, guys. He is entirely different than anything we would ever make up about him on our own. He stoops from his throne to serve sinners. He casts himself to the horrors of Hell to rescue those who rightfully belong there. He embraces pain, shame, and death to make his enemies his friends.
He even washes feet.
Believer, do you need Jesus to wash your feet today? I think Jesus thinks you do. Check out what he has to say to Peter:
“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.” – John 13:6-10
It’s true—as believers, our guilt is forgiven and washed away by the blood of Christ. We are “bathed” and clean, as Jesus put it. But as we journey as aliens through this troubling world, our feet—soiled with sin and brokenness—are going to need to be washed. So if you have shame or guilt that is clinging to your heels today, come on over to Jesus. He’s ready and willing to cleanse you. If you’re wearied by suffering or hard circumstances, and your soul is muddied by anxiety, bitterness, or despair, come and see Jesus. He’s kneeling with a towel in hand by a bucket of grace ready to cleanse you, refresh you, and restore your joy.