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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Day 179: John 13:1-20 & Psalm 46 - Why Did Jesus Wash His Disciples' Feet?

Today's reading: John 13:1-20 & Psalm 46

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Why Did Jesus Wash His Disciples' Feet?

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.” 
- John 13:6-8, ESV

Why would the Lord of the Universe stoop to the position of a lowly household slave and wash His disciples' feet? What was He hoping to teach or demonstrate or accomplish in this unusually humiliating act? 


First of all, we do need to see how humbling this act was for Jesus to do. Peter was fully justified in being scandalized by His Lord's behavior. The disciples had gathered for the Passover meal and not one of them volunteered the wash the feet of the company. This work was below the dignity of a disciple; only the lowest household slave should be asked to do this necessary work. 

John the Baptist had demonstrated his own humility and the greatness of Christ when he said, "Among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie." (John 1:26-27) John declared that Jesus was so much greater than he was that John was not worthy to do the work of a household slave for Him. The honor of being able to wash the feet of the Savior was too high an honor for John to imagine being able to do. Yet here was the Lord Himself taking this position of most humble service to His unworthy disciples.

So, why did He do it?

1. It needed to be done. Before the disciples could recline at table to enjoy their meal, lying on pillows around a low table, their dirsty feet- caked with mud and animal droppings from the streets- had to be cleaned. Jesus was showing them that love means doing what needs to be done, even if it seems below you or "not your job" to do it.

2. Jesus wanted to show the disciples that they needed cleansing. This wasn't just about washing feet. Jesus wanted His disciples to know that they needed cleansing and they needed Jesus to cleanse them. When He said, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me,” He wasn't talking about feet.

3. Jesus wanted to show that His cleansing of His people would only come through His being stripped and humiliated. When He washed His disciples' feet, Jesus stripped off His outer garments and tied a towel around His waist. This was a foreshadowing of what he would endure the next day, when He would be stripped and beated and humiliated publicly in order to cleanse His people.

4. Jesus was demonstrating how to love and how to lead. In Jesus' kingdom, love is never cheap and leadership can never be self-promoting. He was setting an example for His disciples. The kingdom model of Jesus is one of lowering yourself for the sake of others. 

Our Lord was willing not only to wash the filthy feet of His selfish and sometimes clueless disciples, but He was willing to go to the cross for you and for me. He was willing to stoop to the lowest possible depth in order to raise us with Himself to the highest height. He did it because it needed to be done and because He loved us that much. Washing feet was a sign of that love and lesson for us to learn, about how to love one another like Jesus. Will we learn the lesson? 

Prayer Based on Psalm 46:

Lord God, You are our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

There is a river, even Your Holy Spirit,
whose streams make glad the city of God,
    Your church, the holy habitation of the Most High.
You are in the midst of us;
by Your gracious presence, we shall not be moved;
    You, our God, will help us when morning dawns,
at just the right time.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    You utters Your voice, the earth melts.
You, O Lord of hosts, Commander of the armies of heaven,
are always with us;
    You, the God of Jacob, are our fortress.

When Jesus returns again and ushers in Your glorious kingdom on earth,
we will behold the works of the Lord.
You will make wars cease to the end of the earth;
    You will break the bow and shatter the spear;
    You will burn the chariots with fire.
All the weapons of the world will be worthless before You and You will speak:
“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”

O Lord of hosts, Commander of the armies of heaven, You are always with us;
    You, God of Jacob, are our fortress.
We rest secure only in You!
In Jesus' name, Amen.     

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