It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 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.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
When I think of the love of Christ exemplified, I am taken to the Place of the Skull, Golgatha, the cross. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. To see my Lord hanging there in excruciating pain not for anything that He did, but for the sin of the world. He died for all of the sin of the world. This doesn’t mean that everyone is absolved of their sin, but His death on the cross made it possible for ‘whosoever’ to believe in Him and be saved. He did what He did for many people who would never call Him Lord. He died for the unbelieving, the idolaters, the Satan-worshippers, the rapists, and murderers who would never turn their hearts back to Him. We call it the ‘Passion.’ His love for the world was worth enduring this most horrific death. This is love. While we were yet sinners, He died for us. Praise be the Name and the Love of our God.
But here in John 13, we see the Lord washing the feet of His disciples and the Holy Spirit has prompted John to introduce this moment with these words:
“Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”
The full extent of his love was the cross. What does washing feet have to do with the cross? It is a beautiful application of the lessons of the cross and it is the same message as the cross. Jesus removed His outer clothing. On the cross, Jesus was stripped. He was humiliated. He was humiliated by others, but to prepare to wash the feet of the disciples, He humiliated or humbled Himself. We cannot truly serve others without a humble heart. True service needs no recognition or reciprocation. It is done for the benefit of others and there is nothing selfish in it. The cross was an act of love. We sing the old song that He Could Have Call Ten Thousand Angels. The truth is that He has the power to do anything, but He cannot deny Himself. To step down off of that cross, which He had the power to do, was impossible for Him because He is love. There is nothing selfish in Him. We must have a humble heart.
He washed their feet. This was something normally done by a servant, certainly not your Master. Yet Jesus began to wash their feet. The feet were very unpopular body parts as you can imagine. They wore leather sandals in the Middle East, walking around in the dirt and sand all day every day. I am thinking the feet were quite filthy. But we see here that a humble heart allows us influence into the depths of the heart of others that are covered with sin, filthy with sin. A humble heart has no desire to condemn the filth in others, only a desire to wash it clean. This kind of love breaks down barriers and walls allowing the Holy Spirit to enter into those areas of people’s hearts.
He washed Judas’ feet. He already knew what Judas had set out to do. Jesus, being all-God was fully aware of what Judas had conspired to do. He knew that everything was about to happen. Yet, He washed Judas’ feet. He never gave up hope for Judas. The character of God already knows who will finally reject Him and reject us forever, for eternity. But His character must hope. It is His nature. He always hopes. Even as Judas’ would betray Him with a kiss, Jesus called Him ‘friend.’ He never stopped hoping. How many times have we given up on people? We must not ever give up. We may have to use tough love, but love also hopes.
Perhaps what hits me the most are the words of Christ to Peter when He says, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” This was the full extent of the love of Christ and unless Peter experiences this deep love, Peter has no part with Him. People must experience this kind of love if they are going to come to Christ. Unless we love like this, no one will come to the Lord. The full extent of Christ’s love is what we have been called to give through humble service to others, never giving up hope. And we know that the full extent of God’s love and power to change hearts, rescue souls, and redeem the lost is released through the hands and heart of a true servant.