How do we mirror Jesus’ example of washing feet? Did He mean to literally wash feet? How can we put ourselves in a position to receive forgiveness?
11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12 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? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
Yesterday’s passage contained an illustration of cleanliness, confession, and forgiveness. Today, we see the afterthought: do as Jesus did. In verse 11 we know that He is talking about Judas. Or, that’s what we infer, anyway. The original Greek text offers different interpretations of the word “all” from verse 11 indicating that Jesus could have been indicating that nobody is clean, or even that as a whole body, because one is not clean, none are clean. What exactly is this cleanliness though? We saw yesterday it involved confession (admitting you are dirty) and receiving cleanliness (nobody washed their own feet, but rather someone, Jesus, washed them).
Jesus has their attention now. I imagine a silent room as He speaks, giving them intense and intimate instruction, “the teacher is speaking, let’s pay attention lest we miss the lesson.” In verse 15, Jesus says we are to do as He has done, wash each other’s feet. We generally take this to mean that we are to serve one another, to put ourselves in a low place of service sacrificially and yes, that is the message. But, how are we to do that. Are we to literally wash each others’ feet? We can, it’s a humbling experience from what I have heard. However, this has to do with forgiveness. Jesus already knew Judas was going to betray Him, yet Jesus continued to love him unconditionally, as a brother and friend, and He implored the rest to do the same (even though they didn’t know what was going to happen).
Suddenly, Jesus throws in one of those “truly, truly” statements that doesn’t seem to fit. What do we do with that? It is an expression highlighting that the disciples are not greater than Jesus. They saw this act, a symbol of humility, meekness, surrender, and service, as a “dirty job” to be performed by servants and lowly people. However, Jesus makes it a point to note that they are no greater than He (which I think is clear that they openly agree with), and therefore should not think that they are “above” doing this. Looking below the surface, Jesus is still talking about confession and forgiveness. Since He forgives, who are we not to forgive?
Finally, we see that we must act upon what we know. Verse 17 isn’t necessarily a conviction or even a charge/ commandment. Instead, it is reflective of God’s ordinances that we see all throughout the bible. He tells us all the time if we do this, that will happen. Likewise, if we humble ourselves and meekly (meek, not weak) confess and forgive, we will be blessed. We see this paralleled in Mathew 6:15, “15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Likewise, we also see in Luke 17:3, “3 Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” Some may argue that this is likened to an action and it implies that we must do something in order to receive grace and forgiveness, as if we must earn it. It isn’t about earning grace or forgiveness, but rather putting ourselves in a position to receive it. Our current teacher in missionary school likened it to putting a cup in the right position. If the cup in upside down on the table, you cannot pour anything into it, can you? It isn’t about the cup deserving what is being poured out, but rather being in a position to receive and retain it.
What position are you in today? Have you forgiven? Have you confessed? Now that you know these things, are you doing them and receiving blessing? The original text of the bible, when referring to forgiveness of sins uses a word that indicates a full pardon, as if being released from bondage or prison. Are you in bondage today?