Unless I Wash You
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” –John 13:3-8
I’m with Peter on this one. I would have said the same thing. “No, I should be washing your feet, Jesus. I should be on my hands and knees serving you. There’s no way you’re going to wash my feet.”
But the gospel is strange. God’s kingdom is upside down(or rather right side up). God doesn’t demand that we kneel before him. He’s the one getting down on his hands and knees before us.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” –Mk 10:45
We live in a world that demands equality and personal rights. But Jesus gave up his rights. “Though he was God he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges…” (Phil 2:6-7, NLT)
There is a shocking, scandalous beauty in this. And Peter had to experience it. “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” He couldn’t just witness it or think about it or reflect on it. He had to personally experience the Son of God touching his dirty feet, washing them, and finally drying them so they emerged clean.
And this is what a Christian is: someone who has personally encountered this heart-changing reality of Jesus serving me, by dying on the cross so I emerge clean. “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” I can’t cleanse myself. He must do it.
I remember my mom washing me when I was a child. She would scrub in the strangest places, and she would scrub hard. I would say “that hurts!” But she wouldn’t stop. Only a parent does that. And only God loves us enough to wash us in the places we can’t reach, the depths of our hearts.
This Holy Week, we can’t just talk about what Jesus did. We have to experience it. Jesus’ shocking, loving, beautiful humility in washing our dirty, filthy, stinky feet – to the depths of our sin, so that we emerge clean.