He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” John 13:6 ESV
When I was four years old, we lived in a tiny apartment over a store and my back yard was the flat roof of the building with a wall around its edge. One morning as I was out there playing with some pots and pans, I got the notion of flinging a frying pan over the wall, but my happy smile turned to terror as I heard loud yelling below and then the sound of footsteps coming up the fire escape. Soon the angry face of a delivery truck driver appeared at the top of the stairs holding the frying pan in his hand! My memory fails me as to what happened beyond the well-deserved spanking my mother dished out that day. As she finished, I shouted, “I don’t like you! I want to go live with Gammy and Cap-Cap!” (My grandparents) Mom quietly smiled as she dried my tears, then without argument, fetched my suitcase, put it up on the bed and started to help me pack. Soon I was down on the street, holding my luggage in one hand, staring determinedly ahead as mom pointed, “Okay you walk up this road about 500 miles and you’ll come to their house.” I made it about half a block when the sound of cars swooshing past and the long late afternoon shadows struck fear in my heart and in tears, I ran back to my mom and threw my arms around her. How hard it was to admit that she had been right all along and that I loved her! Just like me, Peter hated to admit how much he needed Jesus. He was ashamed how dirty his feet were, and shocked to see Jesus kneeling to wash them. But Jesus not only washed Peter’s feet, He wants to wash yours and mine as well. If we simply confess our need for Him, what a joy is ours when He washes us, then picks us up and carries us all the way home!
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 13:8 ESV
Peter was shocked that Jesus would kneel and wash his dirty feet. This was unheard of. How could Jesus their master and teacher be willing to wash their feet? But Jesus made it very clear that unless Peter allowed Him to wash his feet; he would not belong to him. The hardest part for some of us is that, like Peter, we don’t mind serving, but if we want to serve in the kingdom of God then He demands that we first humble ourselves and allow Him to wash our feet.
Some years ago I felt led to teach on this passage in a very practical way. Only my wife knew what was planned. So after I closed had finished the message that morning, II stepped out the side door and picked up the wash basins, warm water and towels which we had secretly hidden. “Now we have a chance to do this” I said as our small congregation sat in stunned silence. First I washed my wife’s feet, then she mine and then we split the church in two. The women went to her side and the men to mine. Nancy began washing the first woman’s feet, and then handed a towel to her and then the roles reversed. Now that woman washed the next in line. On the men’s side we did the same. One pair of feet at a time we discovered that doing the washing was pretty easy but allowing someone else to wash our feet was tough and humbling. Many tears flowed at our church that day. Relationships were deepened and in some cases restored. Jesus has promised us a blessing when we wash each other’s feet. But to be a foot washer we must admit that we first need Him to wash our feet. Has Jesus washed your feet? He is waiting with the basin and towel for your response today.
‘And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. ‘ Mark 8:34 ESV
If I am learning anything during this Covid-19 crisis it is that service is far more important than position. The young person bringing my groceries out to my car ensures that we have food in the house. The insurance lady working from home takes my call and helps me to order medical supplies. In fact without the people who take away our garbage, mow our lawn and repair our water softeners our own lives would soon become intolerable. Strangely enough because of online worship sessions, we are also learning things about our pastor such as what his living room furniture and golden retriever look like and that he can lead worship with his own guitar. We have also come to a greater appreciation for the many phone calls from our family and have lingered just a little longer each time we get to see our grand kids’ faces on a video call. We are seeing clearly something we have known all along and that is that our lives are not defined by how important people think we are but by how we are loved and how we love in return by simple acts of service.
Maybe that’s what Jesus meant when He asked us to follow Him. First He called us to serve at a specific place and to certain people. Then He commands us to put those people ahead of ourselves through the ministry that God has called us to do. Finally; He tells us to give our lives just as He gave; no matter the cost and holding nothing because we are giving our all for Him.