Opening the word, something caught my attention yesterday in chapter 13 of John that I am drawn to revisit.
“Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, HE LOVED THEM TO THE END” ~ John 13:1.
Looking closely at that wording, the footnote says “to the end” means “to the full extent.” He loved fully, all the way to the finish line. The Amplified version of scripture seems to interject that fact best.
“Now before the Passover Feast began, Jesus knew with full awareness that the time had come for Him to leave this world and return to the Father. And as He had loved those who were His own in the world, HE LOVED THEM TO THE LAST AND TO THE HIGHEST DEGREE.”
“So it was that during supper, Satan having already put the thought of betraying Jesus in the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that Jesus, knowing fully that the Father had put everything into His hands, and that He had come from God and was now returning to God, Got up from supper, took off His garments, and taking a servant’s towel, He fastened it around His waist” ~ John 13:1-4, AMP.
Pondering this scene with knowledge of what is coming to the life of Christ next, I recognize that this is the eve of the greatest hardship of Jesus’ life. In just a few hours, He will take His disciples to the garden for a time of prayer as He prepares for what is ahead of Him. He knows that the weight of the sin of the world will be on His shoulders and that His Father will turn away. He knows the difficulty ahead, and being fully man with all the sensory receptors and emotions of any other, the stress of it affects Him. In just a few hours, that stress will leave Him crying out to God with beads of bloody sweat flowing from every pore of His body. During that time of prayer, it is said of Christ that, “He began to show grief and distress of mind and was deeply depressed” (Matthew 26:37, AMP).
I don’t know about You, but when I know something hard to cope with is coming on me quickly, depression takes hold as the body’s stress chemistry comes into play. Depression too easily hinders my hands and feet, hindering my doing what I need to do while waiting to do what I must. That was not the case for Jesus. Out of love, He sat the good example to the end.
In our focal passage it says, knowing His time was upon Him, that He loved His people to the end, all the way to the finish line, with all the fervor of love possible. Out of His love, He put on the servant’s towel and began washing the feet of the guests. Take a moment to realize, please, that among the guests present, there is Judas Iscariot, the one He knew would betray Him. Jesus loved on His betrayer. (Selah ~ Pause and calmly think on that.)
It was customary when guests entered a home that the lowest servant in the house put on a towel, get a basin of water and wash the feet of the guest. Reportedly, this was the worst job there was to do. Why?
I don’t know if you have ever tended to another’s dirty feet, but it is not a pleasant job to do. In Bible days, people walked most everywhere on dirt paths in sandaled or bare feet. Their feet got nasty. Yes, it was a dirty job; proven in part by the fact that Jesus did not just put on a towel, but he first took off His garments. He knew He would get dirty doing the work of washing feet, so He removed His outer garments to protect them. On this day, no one took it upon himself to tend to the feet of the guests. It was a nasty job and no one wanted to do it, so, as a last act of love, Jesus put on the servant’s towel and did the lowly job of tending to dirty feet.
Pondering this act of Christ, I discern several reasons for His choosing to put that towel on, instead of asking another to do it.
- It set an example of selfless service. Asking another to perform that particular service would have embarrassed the one asked, considering it an insult. Jesus, being guest of honor, put the towel on Himself and showed all there that love chooses to do the lowliest, least desirable acts of kindness for those loved. Love is selfless.
- Jesus used the opportunity to teach His followers, and us through this account, that the cleansing power of their relationship with Him is complete. Completely cleansed from all sin by Christ, we need only the touch up cleansing when a new soiling of sin occurs. Thus, as they say, it is vital that one stay prayed up with God in their battle against sin. This discourse is one proof for those of us who believe that once we enter into salvation by the blood of Christ through faith to believe Him for it, we do not lose our salvation with every struggle against the nature of sinful flesh. Our spirit is secure for all eternity in Christ. (See John 13:6-10)
- It is my belief that Jesus chose to do this job himself because it was opportunity for some one-on-one time with each of His disciples. I do not believe that Peter was the only one Jesus had a conversation with while washingtheir feet. I believe each one responded out of their own fleshly impulse, need, and nature; and Jesus used the opportunity to minister personal lessons all around, encouraging the growth and faith of each one, according to their
need. This account with Peter is just the one on which we get to listen.
Beloved, a lowly, unpalatable job is not a shame for us in Christ. It is opportunity to make oneself available to God for purposes of His own. It is a chance for some one-on-one ministry time with those around us who can benefit from the perspective we have in Christ. It is love’s greatest act of sacrifice when we do the lowliest job with eternal purpose as exemplified by Christ, our Savior, King, and Lord.
What is it that He said in another example of sacrificial service? Oh, yeah!
“Now go and do the same” ~ Luke 10:37.