While preparing for teaching our middle schoolers at church this morning, the question came up… ’Why did Jesus wash the disciples’ feet?” I found this article I’d written in 2021 and was reviewing it myself and it seemed fitting to repost today…. Fitting for Palm Sunday as well, when we consider the victory of Christ and also prepare for suffering and resurrection. What part do we share in all that? …
Jesus, the Son of God and savior of the world, came here to show us what God is like. Today we’ll read about those who were friends with Jesus himself, while he was here. They ate meals together and he prepared them for things to come. He never leaves us lacking for anything, if only we pay attention to what he is saying and has said and believe him.
Story taken from John 13…
Gathered around the table before the Feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world. During supper, he laid aside his outer garment and picked up a towel. Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples feet and to wipe them with a towel he had wrapped around his waist. Peter asked him “Lord, do you wash my feet?”, and scoffed at how inappropriate this seemed. Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter still couldn’t fathom this concept of Jesus washing his feet and said to Jesus, “You shall never wash my feet!” But the Lord explained, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Peter then said to him, “Lord, not my feet but also my hands and my head!” Jesus explained that he had been bathed and did not need to wash, except for his feet.
Reading this passage, I realized how often feet are used in the scriptures.
Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
I asked the Lord to show me more about why he washed the disciples’ feet. Jesus came to clean us with his word. He came as a servant to show us how humble we would need to be but also how wise. As followers of Christ those sitting around the table would have been taught by his words and seen our Heavenly Father through his life example. They believed and so they were now clean… except for their feet. Back then when we came into a home they would wash their feet off. They wore sandals and the roads were dusty and dirty. In the journeys ahead they would walk through many places and “pick up” the dust of that town on their feet. It would be possible to let dirt, spiritual dirt, cling to them as they went from place to place and those things would need to be washed off. They would have to wash one another’s feet as well. They would have to remind one another of what Jesus originally said to them, defend the gospel that was given at first. (See the little book of Jude right before the Book of Revelation for a quick and urgent message about this)
Jesus instructed them to go and preach the gospel with these instructions…
Matthew 10:14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.
They did just that… We see in Acts 13 when they would need to remove the dust of certain situations and places from their feet. Here we read of a glorious time when Paul was preaching the history of God with his chosen people and the message of freedom that comes with it. The text says that the people were so eager to hear more after the first week, that almost the whole town came out the second week to hear the word of the Lord, that forgiveness came through this man, Jesus, the forgiveness of sins is brought to you for everything from which you could NOT be freed by the law of Moses. (Vs. 39)
48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.
Notice how the disciples focused on the great GOOD that was done in that city! They rejoiced at how the gospel was received by the people, almost the whole TOWN. Yet, there were some scoffers – religious people of high standing who stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas.
Acts 13:50-52 “50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
Remember, go back to the night of the Passover before Jesus was crucified. Jesus said he MUST wash their feet or they would have “no share with me”. I think of a share as ownership in a corporation. We all have a share in the Spirit of God, in the Kingdom of Heaven. We have a share in his miraculous works and his grace which he poured out for us for the purposes of doing the work he prepared for us to do. We share in the work of spreading the gospel. The little book of Jude speaks of how we would need to contend for the faith once preached to us. The original gospel. It came with freedom for our mind, body and soul. Nothing compares to it, and I don’t want anything to usurp that in my mind. What we let influence us we will get a share in our life.
So let’s look at how the first friends of Jesus dealt with life on their way through it.
When they were not received by a few, did they let this bring them down? No.
Did they let little arrows of doubt sink into their hearts? No.
Did they start to reason or over-think about the situation? No.
By reading Acts 13, we see that these followers of Christ had made a practice of just what Jesus advised they would need to do. They went to a town, presented the gospel as they received it and some didn’t. “Important” people didn’t. They faced danger because of it! But what was their attitude!
Did they leave that place in fear? Did they question if what they preached what right or what people would think? Nope! They were told this would be a life of adventure and this story is an adventure! So, what did they do when they faced an evil magician and leaders who didn’t want their (healthy, truthful, purposeful) influence around?
They remembered what Jesus said and put it in to practice. They took of their sandals and washed themselves of the words spoken to them, leaving the dust of it behind. WHY? They didn’t want ANYTHING to dilute the power of the gospel they had received. The had to hold fast to it because undiluted it came with POWER.
Jesus warned them about what they would step into and he showed them what would have to happen. Wash one another’s feet as needed. You’ve heard the pure truth, but you live in a world of mixture where not everyone understands. There were to go and share this amazing news, but instructed them that not all will be ready or willing to hear. So, when that happens, don’t carry those experiences with you. Do not let the stain of men’s words or fear infect your hearts. Let those people be in God’s hands. He wants all to come to salvation. He loves them all and will need to prepare them in his own way to hear if they don’t receive the message when it comes around the first time.
It can be tempting to really want people to understand, and in doing so try to find common ground so we will be received until they decide to listen, but there is not really any fellowship between darkness (not seeing) and light (seeing). They just don’t mix. Jesus saw and God knows what you and I have been through. He tells us to let him bring the vengeance on the world. He is a JUST God and will keep his word, but he longs to bring us all to repentance, so we must let him and then hold fast to the solution he brings to us in Christ. The truth that set me free has power to others free, to set you free.
When we aren’t ready, or when we turn away from him, we eventually find things growing in our life that we planted and have to deal with them. When the weeds get to be too much work to manage on our own, our Father is home in heaven, waiting for us to come to him through the saving power of Jesus’s work on the cross.
MANY received the message of Paul and Barnabas with eager hearts and expectation, but not all. We see that when some influential people were going to persecute the friends of God instead of listening. Paul and Barnabas stood their ground. They were to preserve the power of the message so those who DO hear, who ARE open can experience the freedom we have in Christ when they hear it.
The message of Christ is not based on our works, but when we receive it it changes us and our life will HAVE good works. It is a freedom that comes from the knowledge and joy as we realize God himself shed blood, endured cutting, crucifixion and death as full payment for our sin. He broke the power of the devil over man and gave us keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus made full payment for all the wrongs of this world and he’s spreading the message to just receive it – by faith!
Long ago, there was a man who God spoke to and who believed. He was first in a line of family that God chose to redeem the world. His name was Abraham. (Read Genesis 15 for the story) God called himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham, the grandfather of faith simply heard the voice of God, believed it was God and acted accordingly. And God said “THIS is righteousness in MY book.” And he counted it as just that. (James 2:23) And Abraham was called God’s friend.
I want to be a friend of God, don’t you? It’s simple. He just asks that we believe and stay loyal. If we consider his voice above all overs its is not hard to stay loyal to one who has our best interests at heart, who imagined us, created us and came down to visit us for a while. Jesus wanted to make SURE we knew what God was really like so he came in the flesh. If we honor him, we honor God, because he said “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father”. We can’t have one without the other. When we receive the love of Jesus, we can’t help but know this is worth giving our life for, and God offers us an exchange. Old things for new. He doesn’t remember our sin and doesn’t hold it against us anymore. He washes it away and we become clean. So wherever we go, we remain clean, but only have to continue to wash the dust of this world off of our feet.
How often I have forgotten this principle and let offense, or the desire for something to make me feel better influence me. The affections of man are nothing compared to the affections of God. He said “How beautiful are the feet of him who brings good news!” Our Abba, our Father, wants to to keep our feet beautiful and shining with his glorious light, so it’s imperative that we don’t let arrows of man or satan infect the truth of the gospel. His love is so great, so empowering. There is no substitute for it that will last.
The real message of Jesus, the Good News, is the POWER of God to bring real freedom to those who need it. Can we compromise this? Do we ever need to? I guess it depends who’s friend we want to be. God’s not afraid of man or his opinions. He’s knows he’s not wrong about things. He wants his kids back safe in his arms and someone needs to tell them the truth of what’s possible in this life with him.
I suggest reading the book of Luke and Acts so you understand what life in Christ looks like. It costs us all we have, but we get a glorious gift of internal joy inside of us that sustains us in purity and power. Jesus is like a lightbulb inside of and he makes the darkness flee.