Sunday, March 9, 2014

Why Jesus Washed Feet

Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as a response to a trespass against him by one of them, Judas Iscariot. That trespass was the making of a covenant to deliver him to the chief priests. (Matthew 26:14-16) Jesus spoke of it when he paraphrased the psalmist, “[he] has lifted up his heel against me.” (John 13:18)

Jesus achieved four objectives when he staged the scene of the foot washing. First, he told Judas his fault. Second, he showed Judas that he forgave him. Third, he gave his disciples an example of how they should respond to trespasses. Fourth, he set the stage to reveal whom he chose to deliver him.

First, Jesus needed to respond to the trespass against him just as he taught his disciples to respond if a brother should trespass against them. (Matthew 18:15) He needed to tell Judas his fault privately. As it happened, he improvised upon the interruptions of Simon Peter to speak to Judas indirectly to achieve this objective.

Both Jesus and Judas, and they alone, knew that Judas had lifted up his heel against Jesus. In fact, Judas was actively looking for an opportunity to deliver him. Therefore, Jesus did not need to say to Judas, “Judas, you are not clean;” he needed only to say to Simon Peter, “you are clean, but not all.” (John 13:10,11) He did not need to turn a private matter into a public scandal. Eleven were confused, but one heard and understood; and Jesus maintained privacy. That is the way Jesus responded to the trespass against him. He responded just as he taught his disciples to respond if a brother should trespass against them.

Jesus responded successfully to the trespass, and he gained his brother.

Second, Jesus forgave Judas just as he taught his disciples to forgive those who trespass against them. (Matthew 6:14,15) Having gained his brother, he needed to show him that forgiveness. (Consider the reaction of the father who saw his son when he was yet a great way off – Luke 15:20-24)

Jesus saw that the trespass against him was similar to the trespass against the psalmist. (Psalms 41:9; John 13:18) The psalmist's depiction of the trespass against him, “ [he] has lifted up his heel against me,” linked the trespass with an action of the foot. This linkage is the thing that gave Jesus the idea of a foot washing in the first place. He could show his forgiveness by a symbolical foot washing, and he showed it to Judas as soon as he paraphrased Psalms 41:9. Judas then became specially aware of the cleanness of the heel which he had lifted up against him.

Third, Jesus gave his disciples an example of how they should respond to the trespasses of one another. (John 13:14,15) Forgive those who trespass against you. Go to them and tell them their faults privately. If they hear you, show them your forgiveness.

Of course, at that time the disciples did not know what Jesus did, but like Simon Peter, they would know thereafter. (John 13:7)

Fourth, Jesus needed to assign the task of delivering him to the one who should deliver him, that the scripture might be fulfilled.

In gaining his brother Judas, he cast out the devil that put it into his heart to deliver him. (John 12:31; 13:2) If Jesus himself did not now assign the task to Judas, Judas would have defaulted gladly on his obligation under the covenant he made.

It was not to be.

Woe to that one.

The hour had come for Jesus to depart out of this world.

No man could take the life of Jesus, but Jesus himself would lay it down. (John 10:18)

The psalmist was betrayed by his own familiar friend who did eat of his bread. Where we see defeat, however, Jesus saw victory. Jesus would fulfill the scripture by turning it around. Jesus would choose the one who had lifted up his heel against him to be his own familiar friend in whom he would trust to eat of his bread.

And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. (John 13:26)

I offer these ideas only in my own name, but still I hope they are not received as by the elder son. (Luke 15:25-32)

P.S. Link to The Foot Washing (A Poem)

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