so he (Jesus) 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.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you. For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
On my first reading of this scripture, I am reminded of the usual lessons highlighted within these verses such as the need for my sins to be washed away, that I am to follow Jesus’ example of humility and that I am to serve as Jesus served. (All good but nothing really new.) I also realize this passage took place at the last Passover feast that Jesus shared with His disciples. (But now is the season of summer, not the season of the Passover.) So, why am I thinking about it? My granddaughter is the reason. One evening when Charity and I were having a Grammy-Granddaughter sleepover, she asked for a washcloth so she could wash her feet before she went to bed. She had been barefoot while we were outside and now her feet were dirty. I was happy to fulfill her request. (Nothing unusual.) However, the unusual occurs when I combine a familiar scripture with an ordinary action.
If I begin with a spiritual application of foot washing, I think about my need to be cleansed of any sin I may commit on any given day even though I am a believer who has been forgiven of my sinful nature. I cry out to the Lord with the same words as David in Psalm 51. I especially like verses 2 and 10 saying, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin…. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” However, now my mind goes to the physical need of foot washing. Like the disciples feet, Charity’s feet were dirty because dust clung to them. Charity did not need a shower because she had taken one earlier in the day but her feet had gotten dusty and needed to be wiped off. Although my granddaughter knew what she needed to do, she asked for my help to find a washcloth so she could do it. This is where I am challenged concerning the concept of following Jesus’ example of serving.
Who needs what from me? Okay, that is a strange question, so let me clarify it. Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. Whose feet am I to wash? All of us need our sins forgiven and only Jesus can do that, but Jesus does enlist my service to lead others to Him. Is there a neighbor or a friend or a family member who needs to know about their need of forgiveness through my testimony? In order for Charity to get her feet clean, she needed a terry cloth. What is the washcloth that I am to give to a person in need of spiritual cleansing? God’s Word is what I need! In Ephesians 5:26, Paul talks about our need to be “washed with water through the word.” I John 1:19 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Each individual needs to personally apply the promises of salvation and forgiveness to his or her own life, but first, one must hear about it. My granddaughter knew I had washcloths but she was not sure where I kept them so she asked me. I pray that others may see that I am a Christian by the way I live; however, that is not enough. I must share with them God’s plan and desire to forgive not only a person’s sinful nature but one’s daily sins as well.
When I think about my responsibility, I am reminded of Matthew 20:28. Jesus says that He came “not to be served but to serve.” When Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, He took off His outer garment and wrapped a towel around His waist. I am aware that Jesus not only served others but He served with humility. My actions must relay the same message. For me, taking off the outer garment is my giving up my sinful nature and becoming a new creation in Christ. (Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”- II Corinthians 5:17) Wrapping the towel around myself is wrapping myself in Christ or being clothed in Christ. (clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. – Romans 13:14) If I do this, my life’s testimony will lead others to Jesus. I do not want people to be drawn to me but to Jesus.(We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors. – II Corinthians 5:2) I need a towel for myself before I can hand a washcloth to someone else!
Towels and washcloths are important both physically and spiritually. I was happy to get a terry washcloth for my granddaughter and I hope my life also emulates the washcloth of the Word of God to her. However, I want to be sure that I hand the spiritual washcloth to her while holding the towel of humility in my own hands.