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encouragement theology

Dirty Feet

Basin and the Towel

It was a Thursday evening when the men sat down for the Passover dinner. Their teacher had gathered them — just the twelve of them — for a special dinner that night. They could hardly contain their excitement!

They had followed their teacher for over three years, yet this week was one that they would never forget. They had come to realize that their teacher was more than someone special, he was the long-awaited Messiah! He had come to bring them back to God, and he would set up a new kingdom on earth. He was more than just a teacher, he was their lord and master.

How could anyone doubt him after this week! This must be the time that their master would take his kingdom! He had started out the week by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Jerusalem — that great city, that holy city, that city of kings! The people of the city had rushed to him, waving Palm branches and chanting praises!

Surely he would set up his kingdom now!

He returned to the temple on Monday and threw out the crooked merchants and money changers. He then took charge of the entire temple for two days! He would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple (see here). The priests and the synagogue leaders all tried to challenge him but he bested every one of their arguments. No one dared to challenge him any more!

He had taught them that he would be arrested and executed, and that he would come back to life on the third day. But this made no sense to them — maybe he was telling some strange parable? Maybe this was the distant future? For now, the whole nation was following him!

Surely he would set up his kingdom now!

The past two days had been much more quiet as they stayed in the small town of Bethany nearby. But it was now Thursday evening and they were getting ready for the Passover dinner. None of the men even knew where they would be having dinner until they were shown at the last minute. They were directed to a house in Jerusalem with a large upstairs room, on the Western Hill. The room was already furnished and prepared for the thirteen of them to come and celebrate (see here).

The men were so sure that it was time for him to set up his kingdom! The master had promised that they would rule with him and judge the twelve tribes of Israel (see here). Now that they were gathered together on this special occasion, this must be the time to hand out the assignments for his new kingdom! [7]

As they sat down to dinner, the twelve men struggled for the best places at the table. They argued about who was the greatest. All twelve of them wanted to look the best for the master and show them that they were ready to rule the new kingdom with him.

They were so intent on their struggle that they did not worry about social norms. All twelve of them reclined at the table with dirty feet. There was no servant available to clean them up before dinner, and they could not risk being seen doing servant’s work. It was time to rule!

Then, during dinner, the master shocks the entire group! He himself gets up from the table, removes his outer clothes, fills a basin with water, and washes each of their feet. Every single dirty, muddy foot is washed clean by the master.

Peter refused when the master reached him. “Never will you wash my feet!” But the master replies, “you have no fellowship with me unless you let me wash your feet”.

Peter’s quick reply is, “Then give me a bath!” But the master stops him. You are already bathed, and now you only need to wash your feet.

He then brings his lesson to a point. The bathing and the washing illustrate the relationship with him. Most of the men in this room, including Peter, have been bathed into a new life with him (Titus 3:5). One of them does not have a new life and will soon betray him.

But they also need daily cleansing. Even when you have the new life, you still need to be cleaned regularly from the filth of this world. You still have the new life, but you cannot have any fellowship with God without this daily cleansing.

The final point is that if the Lord Jesus Christ is able to wash his disciples’ feet, then we need to do the same. We need to serve each other in humility and apply the cleansing of God’s word.

 

Remember!

  • We need the one-time bath of a new life (John 3:14-16; Titus 3:5). It is only when we believe that we will have the eternal life that he has promised.
  • We need to allow The Lord to daily cleanse us (1 John 1:6-9). We need to remove the filth and sin in our own lives in order to restore fellowship with God.
  • We need to wash others’ feet. We need to serve in humility yet always applying God’s word. We need to wash both the good and the bad people in our lives. Jesus washed the feet of Peter, John, and Judas.

 

In an upstairs room, a parable

is just about to come alive.

And while they bicker about who’s best,

with a painful glance, He’ll silently rise.

Their Savior Servant must show them how

through the will of the water

and the tenderness of the towel.

And the call is to community,

The impoverished power that sets the soul free.

In humility, to take the vow,

that day after day we must take up the basin and the towel.

In any ordinary place,

on any ordinary day,

the parable can live again

when one will kneel and one will yield.

Our Saviour Servant must show us how

through the will of the water

and the tenderness of the towel.

And the space between ourselves sometimes

is more than the distance between the stars.

By the fragile bridge of the Servant’s bow

we take up the basin and the towel.

And the call is to community,

The impoverished power that sets the soul free.

In humility, to take the vow,

that day after day we must take up the basin and the towel.

– Michael Card

 

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