Jesus knew that he had come from God and would go back to God. He also knew that the Father had given him complete power. 4 So during the meal Jesus got up, removed his outer garment, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 He put some water into a large bowl. Then he began washing his disciples’ feet and drying them with the towel he was wearing. John 13:3-5 (CEV)
John’s gospel tells me in these three verses that this is Jesus, the Son of Almighty God, Emmanuel, God with us, the Messiah who has removed His divine cloak and taken up the towel of a servant.
It is difficult for me to imagine my LORD, who has broken the chains of my sins and destroyed Death, bending down and washing feet that are filthy with all manner of dirt. I am a country girl at heart and most comfortable walking around my home and in my yard barefooted. I have stepped into the shower and seen the black footprints that I leave. As I turn on the spray and rub a soapy cloth over my feet, the water turns dark and then finally rinses clean. The bowl and cloth would not have been so forgiving with feet that had walked several miles in first century Israel.
The same hands that touched the first flower at creation had also wrapped His tiny human fingers around Mary’s finger. The hand that was now washing feet, gently lifted the hand of Jairus’ daughter and delivered life back into her body. It’s hard to accept these hands doing such a task.
But I have felt that hand on my brow on many a night, calming and comforting. His hand has washed away pain that has tried to become a constant strain on my body and spirit. Gently Jesus washes me with the complete power of His perfect love. How wonderful it is to come home after a day of hard physical labor and take a shower that removes dirt and sweat and then lie down on clean sheets which brings on a wonderful rest. As I think of these contrasts I can put myself into John’s recollection of that night.
I don’t understand how Jesus can be so kind and gentle when I have been so forgetful and full of pride. I don’t understand but I just know that He is. He takes me into His hands and washes me, not just as part of some ritual but because it is necessary.
When Peter objects to Jesus washing his feet, Jesus says, “If I do not wash your feet, you have no part of me.” (John 13:8) Jesus didn’t tell Peter to go wash himself. Jesus told Peter that he must let Him do the washing. Jesus can take the dirtiest part of me and make it clean. If I will let Him. I can never be clean unless I confess I am dirty to the only One who knows the extent and stench of my filthy sin.
And that’s the truth about forgiveness. I will never forgive anyone as much as God has already forgiven me. Until I allow God to wash me clean I will never have the strength and the love to wash the feet of someone else with forgiveness. Jesus left no one out of that foot washing, not even Judas. Jesus, whom I have hurt, shows me how to receive and give forgiveness. God always completes what He starts. No matter how difficult the task, Jesus asks me to do only what He has already done. He is there showing me the way.
He Touched Me written by Bill & Gloria Gaither, sung by the Gaither Vocal Band