Friday, September 11, 2015

Washing Feet

And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this." Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean."  
And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!"
...having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace 
And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
After the Lord's Supper, before his betrayal, Christ demonstrates to His disciples the way in which they will follow him. He washes their feet. Interpreters have long recognized in Jesus' actions the call to servanthood. Indeed, the least shall be the greatest, and the one who is most the servant shall be made most of in God's Kingdom.

Still, more intriguing are the words of Christ to Peter about cleansing. When Peter refuses to receive this act of Christ's humiliation, Christ tells Peter than no one can have a portion with Him unless he receives this act of Christ's humiliation. In response to Peter's request to receive what one might call the "fullest washing," Christ tells Peter that he is already clean, and needs only for his feet to be washed. Judas, by contrast, has not been cleansed.

The reference to cleansing may refer to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the regenerative washing that unites one to Christ and cleanses him from all iniquity. It seems a plausible reading given the contrast with Judas.

If that reading is correct, what then is the washing of the feet? Or rather, is there more to it than simply a model of humble service and hospitality?

I think it may be. In the Bible, there are a few places where feet are said to bring the gospel. There are even more references to keeping one's feet upon the path of righteousness, or the upright way, or the way of wisdom, and so on. Those who have been cleansed are free from the sin of Adam, the stain of guilt that condemns. Yet they are not free from the corruption of the world. Indeed, they are commanded to go into that corruption and bring tidings of good news, until such a time that this gospel will be spread so as to have put the Accuser, Satan, under its feet.

Given this image, Jesus' washing of the disciples feet may model more than service and hospitality. It may also be a modeling of bearing with the sins of others and of drawing their feet back onto the path of righteousness, washing them clean from the corruption of the world:
 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
For many Christians, it is no great burden to share the gospel in word and acts of mercy to those suffering in the world. But what is hard for most, if not all, is bearing with the habitual sins of fellow believers in our families and in our churches. When a believer sins, it is easier to excuse it, refusing to admit the filth that needs to be washed away. When a believer sins, it is easier to condemn it, refusing to accept Christ's command to wash one another's feet, cleansing them from the corruption that comes from walking about in the world:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. 
The world is the household of the filthy, broken, corrupt. The Church is the household of the cleansed, resurrected, and incorruptible. Until the House of God covers the ends of the earth, our churches will be tracking in the filthiness, brokenness, and corruption that is in the world. Indeed, the very house of our bodies retains that corruption until the Bridegroom returns to place us in our new houses. Until then, our call is to wash the feet of our brethren, that the gospel of peace our feet carry into the world will not be obscured by the filth that so easily clings to them.

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