“Why Jesus Washed Feet”

Categories: Bulletin Articles, M. W. Bassford

The more I study the Bible, the more I am amazed at its ability to capture profound truths about human nature in a few words.  One such amazing text appears in John 13:3-5.  To worldly eyes, there seems to be an immense disconnect between Jesus’ self-perception and His actions.  He thought to Himself that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was returning to God.  In other words, Jesus was a being of incredible, astounding position and worth. 

And yet, what does this being of incredible, astounding position and worth do?  He takes a towel, girds Himself, and begins to wash the feet of His disciples.  The One who ruled the universe took upon Himself the duties of the lowliest slave. 

Human wisdom might conclude that Jesus washed feet despite His awareness of His lofty position.  However, it is more accurate to say that Jesus washed feet because of His awareness of His lofty position.  Because God had given Him everything, He had nothing left to prove about His status.  His absolute security in God freed Him to perform a humble act of service and love.  Foot-washing didn’t diminish Jesus.  Jesus ennobled foot-washing.

In John 13:15, Jesus tells us that He did this as an example for us, and we ought to pay attention.  However, that example does not lie in the expression of His humility and love.  It lies in the basis of His humility and love.

The world is full of people who are constantly grasping and clawing for respect and status.  This behavior, though, does not reveal true security and self-confidence.  Instead, it bespeaks insecurity and lack of self-confidence.  Those who insist that they are important and worthy of respect do not believe it themselves, and no amount of honor ever will assuage their self-doubt.

As Jesus frees us from so many things, He frees us from that.  He knew that the Father had given all things into His hands, and from 1 Corinthians 3:22, we know that all things belong to us.  We know that we are the adopted sons and daughters of the King of heaven, and shortly we will inherit everlasting glory with Him.  No force in heaven or on earth can diminish our position or our value.

Consequently, we can smile serenely at threats to our self-worth that would devastate the worldly.  Somebody insults us?  We know better.  Somebody steals from or defrauds us?  We’ve still got treasure in heaven that they can’t touch.  Somebody calls on us to do some demeaning thing?  Big deal.  If Jesus washed feet, we can scrub toilets.

No matter what happens to us, no matter what we must do, we still will emerge from it as sons and daughters of the King, destined to inherit everlasting glory.  Like Jesus, then, we can live fearless lives of humility, compassion, forgiveness, and service.  Let others fret over threats to their ego!  We’ve got work to do.