Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet.
-- John 13:3-5, ESV
I have a dear old friend who is terminally ill. I've been trying to walk in his shoes, but I do not think you can unless you are actually wearing them. What must it be like, to be told you have months, weeks, or days to live? What would you do if you know you were going to die?
When Jesus faced His final evening on earth, He could have summoned anyone to dinner. He could have compelled Tiberius Caesar to come, or his spineless governor Pontius Pilate. He could have commanded Caiaphas the High Priest to sit before Him, or assembled the whole Sanhedrin. He could have made it a family dinner, with mother Mary and His earthly half brothers and half-sisters, whose faith was very much in question at this point. He could have made it an evangelistic event and sat with unaffiliated Jews or curious Greeks.
But Christ chose to meet with those He had chosen. His final fellowship was with the first Christians. This was a church dinner, with Jesus at the head of the table, circled by 11 imperfect members and one perfect traitor, whom we shall discuss more fully in the next sermon. With every option at His disposal, this is who Jesus invited to the Last Supper.
The most important person in the world to you should be the Lord Jesus Christ, and the most important people on the planet should be your fellow Christians, your like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ. You will find them in your local church. Get together with all of them every Sunday. And when you do, wash each others' feet.
Literally, this is what people of the first century did when they hosted a dinner party. In the East, it is still a common courtesy to remove one's shoes when entering a home. In the West, we have doormats. I suppose these are the modern ways of washing feet.
At Jesus' foot-washing, everything was in its place. There was bread, wine, food, utensils, plus a basin and a towel. Peter thought James would do it, James thought John would do it, John thought one of the other disciples would do it. I think they were all ashamed when Jesus got up and washed feet. But the Lord was glad to do it, for the heart of Christ and the heart of Christianity is serving others, beginning with the household of faith.
This is the literal lesson here. It is not that we should have ritual foot washings added to the sacraments and ordinances of the church, although on occasions I have ceremonially washed others' feet to make a point. It is not that the low man on the totem pool should do the most laborious task. It is that all Christians should be on the constant lookout for ways and means to serve the church.
Once again Christ highlights the hallmarks of His church. We come together regularly for spiritual food and spiritual cleansing. We come to hear God speak to us in word, sacrament, and Spirit; and, we come to speak to God with prayers, praise, and worship. Every time we gather God is washing our feet, and He leaves the basin and the towel behind for others to use.
A life without Jesus Christ is a wasted life. But confessing Christians can waste their lives, too. If they neglect the church, if they don't find ways to serve one another, if all they leave behind is money or stuff, it could be that they will have wasted their lives, too.
Cling to Christ, cling to Christ's church, and give a life of service to God, God's people, and others. For we are all dying, and this is what you do when you know you are going to die.
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs. He can be reached at 501-525-8339 or [email protected]