John 13:8-10,14-15 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” 9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 10 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.” 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
There is a big difference between today’s American feet and feet 2000 years ago. Well, not feet exactly – rather the cleanliness level of feet. Today, our feet probably stink a bit due to the fact that they have socks on them and are in shoes all day. But they aren’t normally filthy. We walk on paved roads and carpeted floors. Our feet are in pretty good shape, really. But feet 2000 years ago in the time of Jesus were a bit dirtier. They probably had sandals on most of the time, but all the roads were dirt. They stepped in mud, they stepped in dog poo, and some of it probably got on their actual feet. So besides the regular bath, you would have to wash your feet often. Now ideally you could afford to hire a servant who would wash your feet for you. That would be nice.
Here in this setting with his disciples, Jesus begins to wash their feet. As we read this, let’s remember that Jesus did lots of practical things that were actually spiritual lessons. Don’t get me wrong, I have done the foot washing thing before. It is humbling. It places the person washing the feet in a place of servanthood. However, washing each others’ already clean feet probably wasn’t the take away Jesus was going for. There must have been a spiritual application to this hands on teaching moment.
I think we find the “aha” in verses 10 and 15. First, Jesus says that a person that has had a bath only needs to wash his feet. Then he tells the disciples that they are already clean. In verse 15, he instructs them to do the same for one another as he has done. Was he telling them to wash each others stinky feet? I don’t really think so. What did Jesus mean when he told them that they were already clean? I think it means that they were already saved, they were already serving Jesus with their lives. And every time they would step in poo, they didn’t need to go bathe (get saved all over again); they just needed to clean off the yuck.
You see, Jesus was pointing to an important role that we are to play in each others’ lives. We are to help each other stay clean before God. We are to serve one another by providing healthy accountability. We are to help those who have stepped in poo to get back on track with the Lord. I think that is the big takeaway for me today, that we serve one another by bringing each other to the cross. We love one another by walking out sanctification side by side. We build each other up by reminding of the grace that Jesus has extended. Let’s no longer walk around with dirty feet, but let’s bring one another to a place of total cleanliness in Christ Jesus.