‘Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.’
This was his last night on earth and it’s fascinating to consider how he spent those last few hours of freedom. There was plenty of teaching to help the disciples and the believers who would come after them. There was a lot of prayer as well as we would probably expect. As someone who loves to sing praise to God, I’m encouraged that both Matthew and Mark record the fact that they sang a hymn (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26), it must be important then. But these are things that perhaps, without pretending to fully understand the mind of Jesus; we might expect him to do. But I doubt if any of us would have anticipated the son of God bent down washing the dirty feet of his disciples. It’s clear they are shocked by the incident.
It was dirty work. I enjoy watching Disney films with my grandchildren but maybe we have disneyfied the life of Jesus too much. I used to imagine Jesus washing the dust from his disciple’s feet but was it really like that? We have seen that there would have been hundreds of thousands of animals being taken into Jerusalem and up to a million people. There was no sanitation to speak of and open sewers; the streets would have been filthy, so Jesus was not just washing away dust. For me it demonstrates that God knows all about our sin, we cannot hide it from him and in Jesus he has dealt with it.
He was humble. This was the job of a servant. Perhaps the disciples were looking at each other to determine which one of them should do the deed but there were no volunteers. At the start of Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist had said he would be unworthy to even untie the shoe laces of the coming Messiah. This was because a rabbi expected his disciples to perform all of the menial tasks but would never ask a disciple to touch his feet, it was simply too demeaning. John was saying that the Messiah is so awesome, I’m not even good enough to untie his laces. But here, the Messiah is washing the feet of his disciples knowing within a few hours all would abandon him, one would deny him and one would be the betrayer. ‘He now showed them the full extent of his love’.
They had no choice. As usual, Peter said what the rest were probably thinking; “you shall never wash my feet.” I have sympathy with Peter, I do not enjoy asking for help or being served, I’d much rather serve myself, I like being independent. But there are things that are beyond us. We are not able to deal with our own sin. We need help. We need Jesus. He alone was able to stand in our place and pay the redemption price. He humbled himself to die in a degrading, dehumanising manner for us and we want to say ‘no Lord, not for me, I’ve got this’, but we haven’t, it’s beyond us. He has shown us the full extent of his love and our only hope is to receive it with grateful hearts.
He is our example.
‘This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.’ (1 John 2:5-6)
“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (13:15)
It isn’t complicated, Jesus became a servant and if we are following him we should be servants too. There is no room for pride or self-importance. There can be no hierarchy amongst the followers of Jesus. We serve God, his people and all humanity to bring glory to God.
‘Meekness and majesty, Manhood and Deity,
In perfect harmony, the Man who is God.
Lord of eternity dwells in humanity,
Kneels in humility and washes our feet.
O what a mystery, Meekness and majesty.
Bow down and worship for this is your God,
This is your God.’ (Graham Kendrick)