Monday, March 26, 2007

FOOTWASHING...What Does It Mean?

Our current series on Just Add Water deals with the ordinances that involve water. We spent the first three weeks overviewing what the Bible teaches about baptism. But here at Grace Church there is also an element of our communion service that involves water. Though we may include just the bread and the cup on some Sunday mornings here at Grace, our regular communion services are done in a threefold manner including footwashing and the love feast as well as the bread and the cup.

Why do we wash feet as part of communion? John 13:1-17 gives us the basis. This is the passage that describes for us the final night of Christ before His death as He washes the disciple’s feet as part of what we commonly call the Last Supper. The Bible says that during supper, Jesus washes the disciple’s feet. Why did Jesus do this? There are three possibilities. First, it could have simply been customary. Washing feet was customary back in this day and culture due to the wearing of sandals coupled with the lack of paved roads. Many believe that this act was simply an act of servanthood. Finally, it could have been Jesus teaching a deeper spiritual lesson.

Whatever the reasons were, it has significant value. This passage tells us that Jesus knew that His hour had come. He knew He would die the next day. If you knew that you were going to die tomorrow, who would you spend time with today? It would certainly be those whom you cared for deeply. What would you do? It would be something of great value and meaning. Such was the case in Jesus life when He washed the feet of the disciples.

The depth of the spiritual lesson that Jesus was teaching is seen in verses 6-7. His washing the disciples’ feet was definitely beyond custom. Typically this act was done when entering a house which means that Christ’s followers had probably already washed their feet when they arrived that evening. What Jesus did was much different. He washed their feet during dinner and He did so at the dinner table. Typically this was done at the door to the house. The very fact that it was Jesus who performed the act went contrary to custom. This was done by a servant. If no servant was present, you would wash your own feet. This action of Jesus was not just because it was custom.

It is also obvious that this action of Jesus was also beyond a simple lesson in humility. How do we know this? When Jesus got to Peter, the disciple resists. Jesus responds by saying, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” If Jesus were simply teaching humility or servanthood, wouldn’t the disciples have been able to understand? After all, this was the Son of Man washing the feet of simple fishermen. There was something deeper involved, something they would not be able to understand until “hereafter.” Hereafter what? This was a reference to the soon to come death of Jesus (see John 12:16; 16:12). It would not be until after the death and resurrection of Jesus that the disciples would be able to understand the significance of what Jesus did. This was not just custom. This was not simple servanthood. This was a spiritual lesson which we will describe in more detail in tomorrow’s blog.

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