Having Loved

It was just before the Passover Feast.  Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.  John 13:1.

That whole idea of having loved His own caught my attention and sent me into a new direction.  I grew up in a church body that practiced foot washing as a part of the Last Supper celebration, and never did it mean much beyond humility and service.  Jesus, however, uses this method to show the disciples the full extent of His love for them.

What does this say about God who rules all?  Here we have God incarnate playing the role of a slave, for only they touched the dusty, smelly feet of anyone.  So much is lost in translation, for sure, but much is also lost in the changing of the cultures.  To put into context Peter’s horror at what Jesus was about to do for him, we have to understand the Eastern mindset about feet. 

In the OT to put your foot on the neck of your enemies was to place the dirtiest, lowest part of one’s body on the pivotal part of someone else’s body, indicating total power.  To throw a sandal or shoe at someone could start a war for it is a dire insult.  To bring it home even harder, I have a friend who was a missionary in Jordan, I believe, practicing as an xray technician for a clinic there.  One day a pregnant woman came in with her husband having a sprained or broken ankle that needed to be xrayed.  For about 20 minutes my friend tried unsuccessfully to elevate the foot and block it off with lead bags to take the pictures but the husband kept chastising his wife and making her put her foot down.  Finally, the tech got an interpreter who told him the husband apologized for the insult his wife kept giving him and asked his forgiveness.

It took them a little while to explain to the husband there was no insult taken and that it was part of the job to elevate the foot so they could see if and where the break was.  The husband explained that in his culture one never pointed a foot at someone else unless one was insulting the other person.

This goes a long way to shed some light on Peter’s vehement objection to Christ washing his feet.  He could not bear to watch his Master lower Himself to the position of a slave.  Yet Jesus was unconcerned because He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  Becoming human in a sinful world would already have been quite step down for the Maker of the universe.  We seem to forget (or not notice) our world is in a tenuous state of chaos or waiting chaos.  In fact, the only time we acknowledge the uncertainty of our existence is when bad things happen—like earthquakes or disasters in the financial world.  What’s actually ironic about this acknowledgement is that we act like these things are uncommon when in reality they happen constantly and we just ignore them.

No, taking on the likeness of sinful man Jesus stooped as low as a God could without being dung.  So going the one small step further into service as a slave would be no big step for Him.  He understood the nature of God in a way we have yet to fathom, I reckon, because we still think of God’s glory only in the realm of unapproachable light instead of a manger or towel wrapped around His waste.  But Jesus’ glory was in the humblest of acts for by performing the duties of a servant, He demonstrated the very nature of God, thus displaying the essence of the Creator’s intent for creation.  All things were designed to serve everything and everyone else.  Nothing lives in a vacuum or autonomously by God’s desire or design.

In serving the disciples by washing their feet, Jesus showed them the nature of God and what it truly meant to be great in the kingdom of heaven.  Following this logic to its “logical” conclusion we have to come to the realization that to be like God we must serve others, knowing that we are never more like God than when we serve one another.

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One Response to “Having Loved”

  1. tlc4women Says:

    I have always loved this passage. The most profound love shown in the simplicity of an act that really had such impact. Imagine the shock.

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