This post is part of the Holy Week 2013 series.
We’ve talked a lot about foot-washing in this Holy Week series.
About how Jesus washed Judas’ feet. And how Peter didn’t understand the foot-washing and protested it at first until Jesus gently helped him receive it. And how a woman, overcome with love for Jesus, washed his feet, too, with her tears and expensive oil and her hair.
There was a whole lot of foot-washing going on in those last days of Jesus.
And then Jesus tells them: You do this, too.
He washes their feet and then says to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, 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 should do as I have done to you” (John 13:12-15).
I think the timing is important.
It’s important that he waited three years to wash their feet. It’s important that he washed their feet before asking them to follow his example. In other words, they received fromJesus before being asked to respond on behalf ofJesus to others.
I think about this in terms of healing. Going back to the woman who washed his feet with her tears, she did this in response to what she’d received from Jesus in a very personal way. Her foot-washing flowed out of her experience of being loved by him. She received, and the natural outflow for her was to give.
In the same way, the disciples had received much from Jesus in those three years that preceded this event. They had received his time. His presence. His teaching. His guidance. His attention. His friendship. Even his correction.
And then, as a type of culmination, he washed their feet.
And then said: You do this, too.
They were to love and serve others out of the experience of having been loved and served by Jesus first. It’s like John also wrote in one of his letters: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
I’m not so sure we can love well if we haven’t allowed ourselves to receive love first.
Love strengthens us. It roots us. It establishes us and gives us confidence and a sense of self and worthiness. Then, from that place, we love with greater freedom. We serve freely because we have experienced being served by the one who loves us fully.