Washing Feet in the Bible
David Jeremiah teaches that in the ancient world, to share a meal with others is an intimate activity. It affirms mutual trust. It would be inconceivable to eat with one’s enemy…making Judas’ actions incomprehensible. And yet, Jesus again went against tradition. His love has no conditions.
The roads were dusty
Washing feet in the Bible, why was it so important?
Everyone wore sandals. Feet got really dirty. A servant normally met travelers at the door and washed their feet. However, against tradition, that did not happen to this “crew” of fishermen and a tax collector in John 13. Dirty feet entered the room unwashed.
Their hearts were exposed
“(He) rose from supper and laid aside His garments, and taking the towel…” (John 13:4)
Jesus and the disciples were already at the table. No servant is mentioned. And not a single one of them had chosen to wash the feet of their weary friends. The mismatched crew of travelers simply all sat down with dirty feet. So against the norm, Jesus rose from supper… and washed their feet.
Serve or be served?
- Jesus did not summon a slave or servant to make them do the task. Rather, after seeing the need, He acted. He served. Washing their feet.
- He saw the opportunity for an object lesson and seized the teachable moment.
Peter the Missionary (pre-Pentecost)
No wonder Peter was confused. Against tradition, this King, this Healer, this Teacher, the One they had all hoped would rescue them from the Roman tyranny…this Jesus had gotten up from the table in order to wash their feet. This was not very Kingly! This is not what they had signed up for. Peter doesn’t like weakness.
Outspoken, impulsive, rash, Peter
What happens when Jesus wants to wash his feet? Surprise! Peter forcefully objects. *sigh* A work in progress, pre-Pentecost Missionary Peter is horrified!
Washing feet in the Bible is not about the feet
Jesus explains to Peter that he needs to submit. And of course, “my way or the highway” Peter with his worldly mindset, tells Jesus what to do. Peter is quite the leader, don’t you think? He will instruct Jesus to wash not only his feet, but his hands and head as well.
But, John chapter 13 is not about washing feet. If it were, then Jesus would have gotten each of them to immediately get up from the table and wash each other’s feet.
What IS it about?
- Jesus willingly did the job reserved for the lowest of all slaves.
- He did not think Himself above anyone.
- It was a SYMBOLIC act of humble service. Done with love. Done willingly. Joyfully.
- He was not forced to do it. He chose to.
- His true followers will follow His example, with the same heart and enthusiasm.
And best of all…
Impulsive, rash, loud-spoken, forceful Peter, a (high “D”) Lion personality has been chosen by God to be part of His “team”. Jesus sees Peter’s value. He understands He is a work in progress. Peter loves Jesus. But he continually fails Him. Jesus knows a secret that Peter and friends do not yet know: Holy Spirit can round off the rough edges. Peter wants to be like Jesus, but he is not quite there yet. Not here…not in Chapter 13.
Submission & service
This is a lesson every follower of Christ, (whether a foreign missionary or not) must learn and put into practice. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we joyfully serve. We DO what Jesus DID. Submitting to what He SAYS. And we learn to embrace our personality type rather than fight it. We realize our strengths are necessary in the Body of Christ. But we also realize that we are all just a single piece of the bigger puzzle picture. Always remembering to not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. We need each other’s strengths. TOGETHER we make a beautiful and complete picture in Christ.
Missionary Peter learns this
…but not until he has even more slip-ups of rushing into situations without being led by the Spirit. So, only after being filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost does Peter become the person Jesus always knew he could and would be. Over time and with the Spirit’s leading, he learned to use his strengths wisely. So you see, there is hope. Always hope. For you. For me. For the Peter’s in your life.
Are you ready…
to learn to appreciate what God intended when He created you? To find your God-given purpose in life? The abundant life is where you and the joy of the Lord intersect; and remember it is not about the feet… 😉 It is about so much MORE!
It begins with Leading From Your Strengths. I am only a click away…
My Father: Experiencing God's Love A-Z
Pamela Taylor invites you to join her in this interactive acrostic devotional journal designed to draw you into the extremely personal and abundant love God has waiting for you. Experience the "Just ask..." of His love for you!
Until next time,
Awaiting His shout,
Christian Life Coach
Leading from Your Strengths Mentor