SwindollStudyBible-John - Flipbook - Page 41
J ohn 1 3 : 2 2
Washing Dirty Feet
IN JE SUS’ DAY, roads and alleys were covered with dust. During the dry season, the layer
of dust got thicker and thicker. When the rainy season began, the alleys and roads turned
into bogs. So sandal-clad feet stayed dirty. Thus, it was the custom at the time for a host
who invited friends to dinner to station a servant at the door with water and a towel. As
visitors arrived, they would stop, slip off their sandals, and allow
the servant to wash their feet with the fresh water. The dirt and
mud would be washed off, and the guests would walk into the
their feet was
house with clean feet. If the family hosting didn’t have a servant,
an example for
then a family member would do the job. No one came into a house
with dirty feet.
On the night described in John 13, Jesus and His disciples
were reclining around a low table. It was different than what we
see in paintings of the Lord’s Supper. They weren’t all sitting on one side of a long table
posing for an artist! No, they were reclining on one elbow with their feet stretched out
away from the table.
The Gospel of Luke tells us that just after Jesus blessed the bread and the cup, a
picture of His body and His blood, the disciples, incredibly, “began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them” (Luke 22:24). Really? Right now?
But if you think about it, it makes sense. If Jesus was inaugurating His Kingdom, they
wanted to know where each of them would be in the hierarchy.
As they were arguing, they heard a splash of water, and then they saw the only One
who deserved the throne putting a towel around His waist. This was the Passover feast,
and Jesus was the most important guest at the table. Yet He was the One who “got up
from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water
into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet” (John 13:4-5). Soon He came
to Peter, who asked, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” (John 13:6). I picture him
tucking his feet up under his tunic. He didn’t think it appropriate that Jesus wash his
feet. Peter had not yet learned that humility includes the rare ability to receive without
After all the feet had been washed, the basin laid aside, and the towel folded back,
Jesus reclined again at His place at the table. He looked around at His disciples and asked,
“Do you understand what I was doing?” It was a rhetorical question, designed to make
them think. He went on, “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s
what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet . . .”
“Since I have washed your feet . . .” Perhaps Jesus even paused for effect.
“You ought to wash each other’s feet” (John 13:12-14). What does that mean? Jesus
washing their feet was an example for them—and us—to follow. Do you want to be great
in the Kingdom of Heaven? Do you want to honor God? Then be ready to be a servant.