345 Wash my Feet
In Matthews Gospel in Chapter 20, we read:
“Then came to JESUS the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.
And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.
Mark tells the same story a little differently in His Gospel narrative, in that he leaves the boys Mother out of the picture altogether, and there, it looks like the boys were making this unusual request themselves. Mark 10:37
I believe Mark, but I also believe Matthew, in that I think that if James and John were making such a request, they were more likely to put their Mother up to it on their behalf.
Jesus responded to them saying : “to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared“.
I recon that such a place would never be given to one who had asked for it, but rather to the one who least expected it? That position, on His right or on His left in the Glory, is certainly enviable, but could never be obtained through any selfishly motivated desire. This, in my opinion was selfishness and pride at its extreme; And when the other ten disciples heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. (Mark 10:41)
So in all of this clamour for position pride & power, Jesus, their Teacher, the Master Rabbi, sets about teaching his final class, teaching them (and us) a lesson in Submission and Humility.
My Sermon today entitled “WASH MY FEET”
finds its text in Johns Gospel and in the 13th Chapter.
We read there:
Jesus arose “from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded“. John 13: 4-5
Now, I have no problem with taking up a towel and washing your feet, if that is what you want, but you would probably just feel silly, and it would be another one of those things that the church sometimes does that doesn’t really make a lot of sense. The lesson here is not about foot hygiene. The lesson is about submission, humility and love.
We know it is about love because the first verse says so; “having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” What Jesus does here is part of loving His disciples to the end. But everything He did from that moment until He had risen from the dead and showed Himself alive to the Twelve was done as part of loving them to the end. Our salvation was about His love, not our worthiness, in the first place.
The foot-washing was about humility. You see, this foot-washing was a custom of that time and that place. It was normally done for guests by a servant. In the hot, arid regions of Judea, where people walked barefoot or with sandals on, a cool washing of the feet was powerfully refreshing, and it was considered at that time to be a wonderful courtesy from host to guest. There was no Law. It was just a custom. It was a courtesy which to deny or forget was simply rude. The telling point is that a servant,
a person of no recognized status was normally the one to
perform the actual washing.
Jesus explained His action to them in verses 12 through 15. We read: “And so when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments, and reclined at the table again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you?” Jesus had to ask because they might have mistaken it for simple foot-washing too.
What He meant was, ‘Do you know what it means?’
This “foot washing” experience is in my opinion one of the finest examples of humility anywhere in the Bible. Jesus removes his garments, not for the first time. In coming down amongst us, He had already taken off His Divinity, and clothed himself in our Humanity, swapped His Royal Regal Robes for Milk Rags, the Swaddling Clothes of a Cattle Shed.
Here again, The Bishop of our Souls wraps himself in a towel, the apron of a servant and gets down on the Floor on His Knees. He is showing them that in His eyes, in His estimate, and in His empire, the way up, is the way down. They had wished themselves beside him on the chair, on the throne, but He is showing them, that the true place of glory in the Kingdom, is on the Floor. God hates Pride, he hates even the “look of pride” he says it is an abomination unto him . Proverbs 6:16. Did you know that Pride and Pride alone is at the root of all contention?
But He didn’t depend on them to understand. He knew that they would not. So, He explained. “You call Me the Teacher and the Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought so wash one another’s feet.” Back then, in that culture, the teacher was the most important person for the student. The students lived to serve the teacher. The greatest hope anyone could have is that they could be as good, as learned, as disciplined as their teacher one day.
Not a bad motivation for study and for hard work?
The title, the LORD, was even stronger. Politically, it meant
that He was the leader, with the right to rule and to be served. Theologically, it meant that He was God. I don’t know if they thought theologically as they applied the term LORD to Jesus? but it carried enormous importance and prestige none-the-less. If He was not above this servant’s task, how could His followers consider themselves above any task that they might need to do for one another? The answer is, they could not.
When Jesus said that they should wash each other’s feet also, He didn’t mean that they should carry buckets and towels and wash feet, literally. He meant that they should be humble, never too good or too important to do anything that any Christian might need to do, or might need done. He adds:
“For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” This word of Jesus should be the answer to every need of the church. If we did not consider ourselves greater than the Master, more deserving of respect, we could not look down our nose at any task which was needed. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, is it?
We have all seen people who are too important to come to some meetings. We have seen people whose time is too precious to spend it with children, and teach a Sunday School Class. We have all known people who will take an office with an impressively sounding title, but not one that may require time and effort and attention. Most of us, who have achieved it to the Pulpit didnot start there! I started, cleaning the windows, sweeping the floors, laying out the chairs, washing the toilets or cutting the hedges and mowing the grass, …it was a promotion to get to welcome the visitors, play the Organ or sing in the Choir.
The church is filled with people who cannot be bothered, won’t
take the time, have no interest in the needs of others, only see what is important to themselves. Such people have rejected the example of Jesus – and in so doing, they have rejected Jesus Himself. Jesus said in John 13:16. “Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master; neither is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.” If Jesus could wash feet, there is precious little that we can honestly be too good to stoop down and do. If the Son of God was not above the work of a slave, then those who claim to be His followers can hardly be too important or respectable to take the time or spend the effort to do anything that is needed in the Church. That willingness to serve is only the echo of the foot-washing humility of Jesus. Jesus then said, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” It is not simply enough to nod your head piously as someone preaches about it. The blessedness of the thing comes from the doing of it – from echoing the humility of our Lord,
and His love.
As I mentioned a moment ago, this “washing of the feet” was customary in those days and in that region. But when Jesus got down on the floor to wash the disciples feet, he was not so doing in order to fulfil a custom, he was there to give them a revelation … hoping that their eyes would be opened to see the significance of his submissive action. So, what brought Jesus to His knees?
By washing their feet, He was revealing to them that for those who are willing to be washed by Him, such a washing will remove the residue of Where they were, so that they do not carry it, to Where they are! No dust from the past should pollute the present or the future. Many of us have been hurt in the past, we have found it difficult to forgive and more difficult
to forget those wrongs done to us. Jesus was showing us by this simple and special act, that when we trust in Him as our sin-bearer and saviour, His blood deals with the past, cleanses the stains of the past, removes the pains of the past and restores the losses of the past. We need not carry any dust of the past into the present. He can wash away the dust of every evil experience, … the dust of who and where we were, so that it has no effect on who and where we are now. Praise God!
We read: “Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit:” John 13:6-10
In those days, I don’t expect that they knew so much about “reflexology” as they do today. They didn’t know that the nerve endings, the power points for the entire body find themselves in the feet? When one rubs or massages your feet, they are actually doing some good to other parts of your body. What is hurting in the upper body, is tied to what is going
on in the feet.
So what Jesus is saying is that “When I wash your feet, I wash your entire Body.” Put your feet in Jesus hands, and he will take care of the rest. That means, walk in His Path, and you will know His Pardon, Provision and Peace. While everybody else is fighting to sit on His right or his left, to climb up on His throne with him, He says that the way up is down.
That’s what is wrong with so many, and why they miss the glory of God, it’s because they are spending all of their time trying to be bigger and better than everyone else, trying to be successful, to be higher than the rest. Jesus was showing us
that if we are serious about making contact with His glory,
then its not about how high we can climb,
but about how low we can stoop.
Jesus is telling Peter that when a man has washed his entire person, and he gets his feet soiled by walking through the streets, all he needs at that point is to wash, just the feet. The image here is crystal clear for the believer. When we received Jesus as our personal Saviour, He forever washed us from our sins – Rev. 1:5; 1 Pet. 1:18-19. We have been eternally cleansed from head to toe already through His cleansing blood. However, as we walk through life, we tend to fall into sin and we need cleansing. Not for the entire person, since that was accomplished when we were saved and can never be repeated. But, just for that particular stain we gathered when we sinned in our daily walk.
This is where 1 John 1:7 – 2:2 comes into play:
Let us read from that portion:
(1:7) “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1:8) If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1:10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
(2:1) My little children, these things write I unto you,
that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: (2:2) And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only,
but also for the sins of the whole world.”
Jesus is teaching us here that we do not need to get re-saved every time we sin, but we do need to come to Him for forgiveness and restoration of fellowship. You see, if you allow yourself to go on in sin, you will keep widening the breach between you and the Lord. The secret to true spiritual joy is the practice of instant confession of sins and failures before the throne of grace. You see,
Jesus is still washing feet today!
Let Him wash your feet now: Don’t hold on to those things that represent your past, those worldly things that used to be the “gods” of your life and lifestyle. You can never come into what God has in store for you in the future, unless you are willing to let go of those things that cling from the past. Let the Blood of Jesus deliver you from the stains and sins of the past, and walk the road to your destiny in the favour and smile of God,
… clean every whit!
Did you notice that while Jesus said that the Disciples were clean, they were not all clean? Jesus also knew about the condition of Judas! It is impossible to hide your condition from the all seeing eyes of the Lord Jesus Christ. He knows what we are and He knows when we are just religious. He knows when we are being hypocritical, and He knows when we are insincere about our faith.
He knows whether you are saved or not. You might fool the rest of us, but you will never pull the wool over Jesus’ eyes! Have you truly been to Jesus for the Cleansing power, are you washed in the blood of the lamb?
NOW THIS FINAL WORD
James McDougall, a young Scotchman, a candidate for the church ministry, was on his way to the pulpit to preach his trial sermon. James had worked hard on that sermon, and he felt that it was a good one. He knew he had a good voice, and he was confident of making an excellent impression. As he walked up the aisle and mounted the high pulpit steps, the pride in his face and walk was evident to everybody in the church.
Old Robin Malair, the sexton and caretaker shook his grizzled head, “I hae me doots o’ yon laddie,” he said to himself.
James McDougall made a miserable failure in the pulpit that day. And when his wretchedly delivered sermon was done he walked slowly down the pulpit steps, head bowed and heart humbled. “Ay, laddie,” mused old Robin, “if ye had gone up as ye came doon, ye’d hae come doon as ye went up!”
For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Luke 14:11
Whatever it is that is soiling and spoiling your life, bring it now to Jesus, and say Wash My Feet Lord.