Disaster struck me one day when I was a boy. I don't know where in the world my dog had been, but our dog came back to the house real unpleasant and smelly. Some type of dark sticky slimy stinky substance was all over that dog. She had tried to get rid of it by rolling in the dirt and loose grass. She looked like a hideous monster, sort of. There she was with her head and her tail hanging. It became my task (privilege?) To clean up that varmint. It was an exceedingly unpleasant task. And I can tell you of several more unpleasant tasks I've had in my life of cleaning up things. I even had to change a diaper one time. Only once. That was the day of the cloth diaper.
One day Jesus had a very unpleasant task to do. And, Jesus was sick. He was heart-sick. He knew that in twenty-four hours He would be dead. And, His spirit was heavy. Thirteen men trudged up a dark stairway to an upstairs room. Supper was about to be served. You can read all this in John 13 beginning in verse two.
Custom dictated that before the meal they would need to have their feet washed. I don't know why they didn't wash their hands first, exactly how that fit in, but they wanted to have the feet clean before the meal was eaten. Usually the task of feet-cleaning was relegated to a servant, in fact to the lowest slave that you could find. This job was very unpleasant. Do you enjoy smelling a sweaty stinky foot? You know that God has place our nose about as far away as he could from our feet. When you kneel to wash someone's feet did you ever think that your nose is located at the about as close as it can be to someone's stinky feet. It's the ideal vantage point to experience the strongest foot odors. Imagine washing twenty-four of those types of feet! Nobody wanted to lower themselves to perform that low-down chore. In fact, their thinking was not focused on humility but on status at that point.
So, Jesus got up and took the towel from its peg and got the basin from its corner in the room and in silence He knelt before the nearest disciple. He loosened the leather straps and one by one He took each filthy foot in His own hand and began to tenderly wash away all traces of dirt and filth. The same hands that fashioned the galaxies of the Universe now cleansed away all grime and grit. Fingers that formed the foundations of the world were now drying toes. After gently drying each foot, those same hands that would soon have nail holes in both them replaced each sandal and tied the straps back on. Those lips that would soon be black and blue from beating and parched from thirst smiled in love at each amazed disciple. And those eyes that would soon grow glassy from death on the cross gazed into the depths of their hearts.
Jesus understood full well that in a few short hours all those twenty-four feet that were so wonderfully cleansed would soon desert Him and run for their life and flee from His presence. Jesus was washing the feet of a bunch of deserters. That's what He was doing. And He knows it. They don't know it. Only the feet of John would stay put. I imagine that as Jesus came along and washed the feet of Judas that He had some rare thoughts in His mind. He knew that those feet would soon hang lifeless from a tree in a field of blood. Yet He continued washing. He washed Judas knowing that Judas had future plans to harm Him.
I will tell you today that Jesus is still in the foot-cleansing business. He still wants to cleanse feet. Today He kneels before each of us, not to condemn us but to purify us. That's what He wanted to do to them. I don't know where we've been. We've been out somewhere doing something we ought not to have done. And we're covered with a stinky smelly substance. And, it's Jesus' vocation to remove that from us. As Jesus looks into our face He instantly knows the hidden secrets of sin in our life. All our sins come up before Him in their awful hideousness. We might think that He would skip us, that he would not wash our feet. But not Jesus. He kneels there and washes all our sins away. He kneels there in the form of some other human being to wash away all of your sins. His nail pierced hands cup the water of life and apply it to our filth. We are totally forgiven and totally cleansed.
Jesus washes us knowing that in the future we will be deserters, that we will betray Him. He knows us better than we know ourselves. And He knows that we will fail Him again. And yet He believes in us. Perhaps if He loves us enough we will respond and we will be changed. After the foot washing Jesus challenged the twelve disciples with these words: John 13:14 "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet."
Jesus asks us to go out and find somebody else who is grimy and smelly and dirty, a dirty person, somebody that has wronged us, somebody that has hurt us, and like Him we are to forgive people that we know have future plans to harm us. And what are we supposed to do? We're supposed to forgive them. As we have been freely forgiven so ought we to forgive.
Later that weekend, perhaps on the long hours of the Sabbath day, I imagine there were eleven hopeless men sitting there staring at the ground. Jesus was dead. As they stared I wonder if they happened to notice their feet? I think so. Did they remember how Jesus had washed their feet? Did they see that those feet were dirty again? Did they remember what Jesus had really done? And did a great truth dawn upon them? Jesus wanted each of them to understand even before He died that they were forgiven. Even though their feet were dirty again, even though they had deserted Him that they were forgiven. Jesus said in John 13:7, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." And here is an awesome truth: His forgiveness continued on even after His death. Their feet were still clean even though they had failed Him. Jesus did not hold them guilty for the cross. It was not their responsibility to bear that guilt. He had forgiven ahead of time.
What an awesome thing to know that we have a God that forgives us even before we sin. That's what He did to the disciples. They were forgiven before they even asked. Mercy had been extended before they could even realize they needed mercy. It's the same today. Before you sin, Jesus is there. We can't keep our own feet clean; they're going to get dirty. But Jesus' forgiveness is there ahead of us. That's the kind of a God He is. We can't keep our feet clean. But Jesus forgives us ahead of time, and gives us power to be a little cleaner as the days go by, a little more like the image of Jesus. And that's our goal. My goal in life is to be like Jesus. In the meantime I know I'm forgiven. I John 1:9 says, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to purify us from all unrighteousness. All our righteousness is as repulsive to Him as my dog was to me. And that day, He not only washed filthy, He washed filthy unholy hearts.
And today, Jesus is standing before us to wash our hearts. And what substance is He going to use? He's going to use blood, His blood to wash the sin from our heart. What an awesome Savior we have.
We're going to participate in an Ordinance of Humility that reminds us of how Jesus washed the disciple's feet and how we also ought to view the grime of our life and the grime of our neighbor. And we ought to participate in washing it away and extending forgiveness because we have been forgiven.
Before we separate let me remind you that we have several areas set up: the Fireside Room for couples, the next two classrooms will be for the men, and the room on the far end will be for the ladies. When you come back, please don't sit in these two sections. You can sit in those, but it would be easier if we would not be sitting in these two sections here.
Let us pray before we separate for the Ordinance of Foot-washing (Humility): Dar Father in heaven, thank you for washing the dirty feet of the dirty dozen, the deserters. And I pray today that You would wash not only our feet, but our hearts with Your blood. Dismiss us with a special blessing as we go into the foot-washing service. And bless us as we reassemble here for the ordinance of the cup and the bread. And we pray this in the name of Jesus our Savior, Amen
Hymn of Praise: #230, All Glory, Laud and Honor Scripture: John 13:12-17 Hymn of Response: #409, Jesus Invites His Saints 021214#532
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last updated September 18, 2004 by Bob Beckett.