"You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 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." - John 13:14-15
Contrary to what you might think, this is not a blog post about foot-cleansing techniques.
Instead, we are going to use our imaginations for a moment. Close your eyes and take a deep breath, focus your brain-power. This experiment will only be impactful if you want it to be. Here we go.
We are sitting together at the table with a few of our closest friends. Imagine their faces, the conversations we are having. Reminiscing of old stories, sharing our dreams for tomorrow, recollecting recent events. Jesus is sitting at the table too, listening and sharing.
We've been following this Jesus for quite some time now. He is fascinating. His words are gracious, yet powerfully clear. He teaches with other-worldly authority, unafraid to have the "hard" conversations. It's like everything he says either is true or comes true. Something about him just draws you in.
He's not particularly flashy or good-looking, but he is approachable. Inviting, even. His demeanor just exudes an affectionate love for anyone in his presence, even with those who are offended by him. You've seen him do incredible, hard-to-believe things like healing lepers from their diseases instantaneously, and multiplying a few loaves and two fish into a feast for several thousand people. He's even raised clearly-dead people back to life once or twice! That's crazy-talk!
You, me, and our friends at the table believe (with our sometimes wavering hearts) that Jesus is who he says he is. He's treated us with more love and forgiveness than any of our earthly families or friends, spoken true words deeply into our hurting souls, and taught us how to live lives that are pleasing to God. There's plenty of evidence--he's got to be something more than just human, right? He's the Christ, the promised Savior of the world, God's Eternal Son! He must be.
He has already given up so much to be a friend to us. Surely he'd give us his life if he had to. He's our Teacher, and we are his students. He's our Shepherd, and we are his sheep. We look up to him with all respect and adoration, but also with an affectionate love like a child for his parent, or a little brother for his older brother. And you know what, he deserves that kind of glory! None of us do, that's for sure.
When the conversation comes to a lull, Jesus stands up from the table and leaves the room. Maybe he just needs to relieve himself? A couple minutes later, he returns wearing a towel around his waist and carrying a bucket of soapy water. Weird...what's going on here? That's the servant's towel! (I forgot to mention, we are currently imagining that it's still the era of indentured servitude in the middle-east.) Jesus always seems to sneak in a good lesson or teaching moment whenever he finds the opportunity...but where is he going with this?
He sets the bucket down next to one of our friends, stoops down on his knees, and begins unlacing the sandals of the friend's feet. (Just a note: all of our feet are extremely dirty and smelly from walking dirt roads most of the day.) The friend gasps, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" No way! Jesus is much too noble for this servant-task. What is he doing?! We should be the ones washing his feet! Jesus gently speaks a few words to our friend, and washes his feet with the care of a mother giving an infant a bath, then moves on to the next friend.
Nobody says a word. The silence is thick with intrigue and mild confusion as to why our Leader is humbling himself to such a lowly role. Washing dirty feet is what the servants do, nobody else. I mean, it's a gross job, isn't it? Who would want to do it other than a servant who is forced? Jesus just keeps washing, carefully, lovingly, foot by foot. Then, he crawls over on his hands and knees and scoots the bucket of soapy water next to you.
You look down at your feet, and they are seriously dirty. Then you look into Jesus' eyes smiling up at yours, piercingly kind and knowing, almost like he knows your very thoughts. You feel amazed, maybe even a little bit ashamed, but mostly just in total awe and wonder at who this man really is. And, unlacing your sandals, Jesus dips your dirty feet into the warm water. He lathers the soap with the edge of his towel and scrubs away the caked dirt from your feet, taking his time. You both chuckle as he accidentally scrubs the ticklish spot between your toes. He dries off your feet, laces your sandals back up, and leaves the room once more to change his clothes and dump the water. Everyone is silent, looking into one another's eyes intensely, inquiringly, trying to figure out what just happened.
Jesus comes back into the room and says this, "You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 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."
Take another deep breath, close your eyes again.
Do you get it? Do you really, truly understand?
Jesus is still washing our dirty feet. Every single day. Let's follow his example together, and do the same for those around us.
I pray this imagination experiment was an encouragement to you. It's a great way to gain a deeper understanding of the context and emotion of certain passages in Scripture. Try it on your own during your next devotional time!
-written by Chase Cotten, Media Director at IDES