Clean Hands, Dirty Feet

Devotional: Day Three

Clean Hands, Dirty Feet

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end . . . 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.”—John 13:1, 3–5 (NIV)

“It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it!” This expression essentially describes an unpleasant action that’s necessary, but no one wants to do. Have you ever had to do a dirty job? Cleaning a diaper is a dirty job, right? But literally someone has to do it!

Today we see Jesus doing a dirty job. In John 13, we’re told that just before the Passover meal, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. Now in those days, everyone walked around in sandals, essentially making their feet into magnets for filth. Dust, mud, trash, and animal waste was everywhere and inevitably got on everyone. Add a constant flow of a sweaty odor, and you can imagine how much of a dirty job washing the average foot was.

Back then, many households had a servant assigned to wash the feet of those entering the house. Guess where that job landed on the social ladder . . . at the very bottom.

And here we have Jesus—the author of life, the King of kings, God in the flesh, who had experienced the splendor of heaven—literally lowering Himself and washing dirty feet. Unbelievable!

Can you imagine being one of these men? The One you saw resurrecting the dead, healing the blind, walking on water, multiplying loaves and fish, and even being transfigured into glory in front of you, the One you believe to be the Christ, the Son of the living God, is humbly doing the dirty job that no one wants to do.

Well, Peter wasn’t having it! He says to Jesus, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet" (John 13:6 NIV)? And Jesus responds, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:7 NIV).

Theologian Joseph Barnes had this to say about what Jesus was doing: “It was a symbolical action . . . a lesson of humility, and was intended to teach them in such a manner that it would be impossible for them ever to forget it. Had he simply commanded them to be humble, it would have been far less forcible and impressive than when they saw him actually performing the office of a servant.”

Philippians 2:7–8 (NKJV) declares that Jesus “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Just as Jesus lowered Himself to wash the disciples’ feet, He also lowered Himself to death in order to wash our souls, which are much filthier than our feet. It’s the ultimate dirty job, and only He could do it! 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV) tells us, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” And this was all done because of how much He loves us! 1 John 3:16 (NIV) says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”

This is the answer to one of life’s biggest mysteries: The divine love that God loves us with led Him to lower Himself to the point of death to redeem us with His own blood! Jesus gave Himself up for us. He laid down His beautiful, perfect, sinless life for everyone. He came “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28 NIV). He shows us what it looks like and how we can walk in it. It’s sacrificial—a beautiful servanthood towards one another.

Likewise, as He shows us what love is, He commands us to “love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12 NIV). He expects us to love others consistently, selflessly, and sacrificially (John 15:13); to love with humility and to serve one another in love. He expects all those who know Him, and thus know what love is, to wash one another’s feet. So, today, it’s important we ask ourselves, “How am I showing love?”

Things to Consider: How are you serving and showing love to the people around you right now? How has the Lord grown your love for others through this fast?