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Do You Understand What He Was Doing?

July 16, 2012

After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, "Do you understand what I was doing? You call me "Teacher' and "Lord,' and you are right, because that's what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other's feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. -- John 13: 12-15 (NLT)

It was customary in the days of Jesus for a servant or a slave to wash the feet of dinner guests. This was long before the days of cross-training sneakers and the travel being largely on foot, one would gather up all sorts of dirt, dust and filth on their feet throughout the day. It was quite a menial task. It was quite a dirty task. It was an extremely humble task. Yet there knelt Jesus, their Lord and Savior, washing their feet carefully and lovingly. Realize that Jesus knew full well that this was going to literally be the last supper He would have with His friends. He knew full well what awaited Him on Calvary's hill. Also we must realize that Jesus knew exactly where these twelve men would be tomorrow. He knew that they all would desert Him. They would run away scared and abandon Him in His greatest moment of human need. As He washed Peter's feet Jesus knew that he would deny even knowing Him and call down curses upon himself to avoid being associated with Him. This from the braggadocios Peter who swore that though everyone else would abandon Him -- he would stay with Him until the bitter end. As Jesus washed the feet of Judas He knew full well about the thirty pieces of silver for which He had been betrayed. Yes beloved, He also washed the feet of Judas. Scrubbed the dirt from the soles of his feet even though his soul had already been bought by the devil.

Jesus could have chosen to perform the foot washing any time He wanted during the three years He was with these men yet He waited until just hours before the end. Within the key verses we see why -- do you understand what I was doing? This is the question He asks the disciples right after He washes their feet. Do you understand what I was doing? I think that intellectually they may have been able to grasp the concept but the real lesson would come later that night in Gethsemane when Jesus would be arrested and dragged away as He had been predicting to them. I think the lesson would truly sink in when James and Bartholomew would be running and hiding. They would realize and remember the last thing Jesus did before they cowered for their own lives; was wash their feet as a servant would. As Peter hears the rooster crow after denying Christ three times I am sure he would reflect to hours earlier as his Master knelt before him and washed his feet. Here was the reaction of Judas:

When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. "I have sinned," he declared, "for I have betrayed an innocent man." -- Matthew 27: 3-4 (NLT)

Sin always disguises the consequences from our eyes. Or maybe it's just that we do not want to see them. Judas discovers that Jesus is condemned to die and I am sure he reflects back to the evening before when the Lord knelt before him and gently washed His feet. Do you understand what I was doing?

The question still sits before us today. Do we understand what God was doing? We retell this story and love to reenact it as well. We put on plays and skits about the foot washing scene but do we understand what He was doing? Jesus was giving us an example to follow when it comes to how we deal with each other. Given the propensity in the modern church to bury their wounded and be over-judgmental it would seem to me that many of us do not understand what He was doing on that evening before He would head to the cross. The key verses containing the words of Jesus implore us today -- do as I have done to you! Follow the example I have provided!

What is this example we have from that evening so long ago? I see three things Jesus wants us to emulate in how we deal with each other. The first and foremost is always humility. Jesus had no problem kneeling before His disciples and taking on the role of a slave before them. Too often these days we have a body of Christ that is entirely too proud. There can be a very selfish spirit in the church. It is nothing new but it is the very opposite of what Jesus displayed for us that night in the upper room. Years later, the Apostle Paul would summarize the attitude of Christ for the Church at Philippi:

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God   as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave  and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,   he humbled himself in obedience to God   and died a criminal's death on a cross. -- Philippians 2: 1-8 (NLT)

Do you understand what I was doing? Are we tender and compassionate with one another? Not being selfish and trying to impress. Looking out for the interests of others before ourselves? Are we humble? Do you understand what I was doing? Or are you running at the first sign of trouble, denying you know me when the going gets tough, or even betraying me for the things of this world? Do you understand"

The second deals with having a servant's heart. That was what Jesus had throughout His ministry and culminated on the night of the Last Supper. When we serve others we serve God -- remember what we do for the least of these! Unfortunately today in the church we can see this backwards as well. The modern theories of church growth demand that the people serve the church instead of the church serving the people. These theories which are filled with human wisdom seek to supplant the true role of God in the church. It is God that provides the increase -- not man. Not church growth models. Read the Book of Acts and you will see that all the disciples had to do was preach the Gospel and let God provide the increase. When the needs grew, the disciples appointed spirit filled believers to ensure that the needs of the people were met -- not the needs of the church. The church was built on the notion that we were here to help each other. To fulfill each other's needs. That was what Jesus was trying to show us when he washed the feet of His disciples.

Lastly, we cannot be afraid of the dirt. Jesus scrubbed these feet clean. It did not matter how dirty the feet were or where they had walked that day. We cannot be afraid of the dirt. It seems that sometimes in the church we can insist on only dealing with the superficial. We may pay lip service to the deeper problems but not many of us want to get on our knees and start scrubbing away at the dirt in someone else's life. We can end up judging them, turning our noses up at them, and alienating them. I have read horrific stories of mega churches who teach their congregants how to disassociate themselves from someone who has fallen instead of restoring that person as the Bible tells us to do. What this stems from is a bloated sense of righteousness that we do not possess. Yes we are covered by the blood but that is His righteousness not ours. We do not want to get down in the dirt because it might remind us of the places in our walk that is still not as clean as it should be. Jesus knelt before His disciples and did not care how dirty they were -- they would have no part in Him unless they let Him wash their feet. Do we understand? Humble before each other -- a servant to each other -- not afraid to get a little dirty for the cause of helping each other. Follow the example He gave us. Do as he has done.

Do you understand what He was doing"?


Rev. Anthony

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Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to (more...)
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