Beautiful Are The Feet
This week's post is by Ashley Bowie.
In a small upstairs dining room, in a rented space filled with quick glances and a tangible uncertainty the son of God sat breaking bread and praying. Low candles threw shadows around the room and on the faces of the men with Him. Some were afraid, or worried, most were confused. All sat listening intently through the sounds of eating and drinking and light conversation. With one ear to his brother and one ear to the Lord each of them waited. Something was happening, something was about to change. As they waited patiently they looked carefully at one another, Do you know what this is all about? Have you heard what he plans to do? All of them were looking for answers, all of them could feel the tension. All of them but Peter. Peter sat tall and easy. He sought a lively conversation but could not find it among his brothers. He leaned into his meal instead and focused on flavor. He did not notice when Jesus stood and filled a basin with water. He did not see the Son of the Almighty God wrap a servant’s towel around His waist and carry the water to his own feet. He did not notice until his feet were in the hands of Jesus and it became appallingly clear what He intended to do.
“Lord do you wash MY feet?” This was a job for the lowly, a disobedient servant, a young or very new servant. Certainly not a job for the great teacher, and not at all a thing for God himself to do. He could not allow it, Peter would do anything to serve the Lord and had said so, planned to say so again. I will die for you Lord. He rehearsed in his mind again. No this would not do. Maybe he would stand so Jesus could not wash his feet, or call on his fellow disciples to say something sensible.
“If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Jesus said patiently, with an eternity of longing in His voice. Peter softened, his bravado deflated. Above all, he must be with the Lord forever. Of all the things he had ever wanted, of all the paths in life he had tried, following Jesus had been the only right. If He says I am not clean then I will let Him wash me, he reasoned. If cleanliness is what he wants, then I want to be totally clean.
“Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Don’t count me out Lord! Clean all of me so I can be with you.
“The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean.”
I’ve been talking about the subject of this blog for several weeks now. My friends know that when I get excited about something they can expect to hear about it day and night ad infinitum. It was something of an epiphany that hit me as I was reading through the book of John one morning. Like a flame lit in my heart spreading warmth through me. I’m a little bit more afraid of this little candle than I thought, because as it happens, it’s not just a candle, it’s the consuming fire of a real and consistent face to face relationship with Jesus.
When we think of submission, I would guess that most of us think about doing as we are told by whomever happens to be in authority. We think of bosses or parents, and making good choices when it comes to our spiritual lives. We think of abstaining from sin and doing the good right things that the Lord gives us to do. These are good thoughts about submission, right even, but in the context of John 13 we have this miraculous moment when we are commanded to submit to being served by the Lord.
Sit right there, child you have been walking in the world. You have been living and striving and walking to and fro trying to be a good servant and a faithful child and you have collected the dust and filth of the world on your feet. Let me pour this pure water over your feet and wipe them with this towel white as snow.
I have sinned recently. At the time of this writing I am unwilling to tally up all the ways I have been selfish or careless, cold hearted or have let my words get away from me. I’m sure you understand; you are every bit as human as I am. When I am made aware of my sins, the filth of the world on my feet, I have a tendency to wallow for a few days. Then I try to clean up myself. As though I sit with a gavel in my human hearts court room and lay out a sentence. Do three kind things, say words of encouragement to people who annoy you, read nothing but scripture for a week. I have a friend who says that she “grounds” herself. She feels like she cannot go out with friends or do anything fun.
James chapter 4 says that when we do these things we become judges of the law. As if to say that the plan Jesus laid out for confession and repentance is not enough and we need to add our own items to the list in order to feel clean again.
Repentance will never stop being a part of our lives on this side of eternity. There is always going to be something to be sorry for. No matter how hard you try, you will continue to walk through the world and collect the mess on your feet. True, soul deep repentance puts you face to face with Jesus. As He kneels before you, the one He laid down His life for, the one He paid His own blood for, He looks into your eyes and says “You are already clean, just let me take care of these feet. Thank you for coming to me today because I know that you needed to sit here and confess all the mess you have gotten into, and look there, it is finished.”
This story happens within the framework of the last supper. Jesus’s final communion with His disciples included a teaching on confession and repentance. It should be often and intentional that we come to have our feet washed. And when He has washed their feet He gives us this command; John 13:14-15 “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”
I think most of us repent in solitude because we don’t want others to know just how bad we are. I really hate to imagine what people would think of me if they knew how selfish I can be sometimes, or how angry I can get if things don’t meet my expectations. But here we have the example of Jesus; we are not to come to one another with superiority or with any of our own judgments on the law. We are to come with a servant’s towel and humble knees. It is messy to live in the world my friend, and I don’t want you to be slowed down by thorns or a collection of dirt. So let me help you, let me pray with you and we can walk on together.
Isaiah 52:7 “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your GOD reigns!”