Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, John 13:3
On a night not unlike this one, the Son of God, God Incarnate had one last meal with the men He had taught and trained for the previous three years. Before the meal, He gave them one final object lesson. After countless other meals, after countless other opportunities, He chose this moment for this lesson. He washed their feet. Once.
Peter protested. Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” (John 13:7)
Certainly, it was a lesson in humility and service, and the rest of the conversation in the upper room focused on the love the followers should exhibit for each other, but it was more than that.
The Teacher took on the role of the lowest household servant, not because He had to, because He chose to.
The Anointed One took on flesh and became a man, not because He had to, because He chose to.
It was an act of pure grace. Imagine being in the room, realizing what Jesus intended to do. Flushing with shame because it never occurred to you to wash your own feet, much less anyone else’s. Jesus may have started with James the son of Alphaeus or John who were likely the youngest of the disciples. Some speculate He began with Judas. As He worked His way around the room, the awkward silence was broken up by only the water dripping back into the basin. The recipients of this gift became noticeably more uncomfortable. As Jesus worked, the towel became more and more soiled.
Again Peter protested. Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” (John 13:8)
If this was just about hygiene or manners, that’s an inexplicably harsh penalty. However, for months, Jesus had been preparing these men for His death. Now He was illustrating the purpose, the necessity of His death. Within hours, Jesus was going to cross, not because He had to, but because He chose to. He would take not just the day’s road dirt making us fit to partake a meal, but He would take the blackness and rot of our sins and make us fit for eternal fellowship with Him in His kingdom.
Peter got it. Years later he wrote, For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit. 1 Peter 3:18.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
(I’ll see you again April 17. May the joy of the resurrection fill your heart this Easter season.)