The Washing of the Feet

In John chapter 13, when Jesus and the disciples are celebrating the Passover, there comes a time when everyone washes their hands. We can’t be certain if this is the first or the second hand washing, but what we see is instead of washing the hands, Jesus gets up and washes the disciples’ feet. Foot washing goes all the way back to Genesis 18. In Genesis 18, Abraham sees three men coming toward his tent. He isn’t willing to sit in his tent and wait for them. Instead, he gets up and runs to them. Abraham says to the three men, “Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree.”

What is the significance?

When you bathe, you’re body is clean. But, when you go outside to walk, the dust will kick up and attach to your feet and ankles. When you enter someone’s home, it is traditional to wash your feet. The significance, or at least modern day application, can be found in the very idea of it. When we walk through this world, we find that it will attach itself to our feet. It isn’t that we sin, necessarily, but that when we hear something, or see something, that is unholy, it can cause us to feel “dirty”. It isn’t that we indulged in it, but simply hearing dirty language, or seeing the magazines at the check out, or whatever it might be that sticks in our minds that we know isn’t pleasing to the Lord collects. We need to have our feet washed.

More important than Abraham’s foot washing, what is it that Jesus is trying to say?

Well, we can continue in the same line of thought. The Passover signifies coming out of darkness and into light. It signifies coming out of Egypt. The dust upon our feet that Jesus is washing off is the dust of Egypt. What is Egypt? Egypt is the Bible’s symbol for systems. It isn’t simply the oppressive nation. Systems can be educational, governmental, religious, or anything that desires to perpetuate itself and its goals more than take care of its people. It is because of the need to perpetuate self interest that the people are oppressed. They are only means to an end.

We can all have a little bit of Egypt in us. It is easy to get in the rut of finding people as objects, or means to a desired end, instead of fellow human beings. We’ve all been in the circumstances where we want something selfishly. I find that sometimes I have the ability to close myself off into my own world. I stop listening to others because I’m writing, or I’m reading, or I’m listening to a sermon. I don’t want to be disturbed. I want to be able to put my attention into what I’m doing. So I block others out in order to continue in what I’m doing. I’m acting like Egypt – lessening the value of those around me for selfish reasons.

I used to think that the name of Jesus was a genie lamp. It is written that anything we ask in His name He will give, right? So, I would vehemently declare in the name of Jesus for this or that – whatever I thought would bring me fortune or popularity – and hold onto this promise. I would like to suggest that this kind of prayer is taking the name of the Lord in vain. That is Egypt. It is based upon selfishness. It is based upon ambition, promotion, greed, lust, and preservation. It is not the wisdom of God. It needs to be washed away. It says in John 13:14, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” This is something we’re supposed to do. We’re supposed to wash away the dirt of Egypt in one another’s hearts and lives.

How do we do this? “He got up from the meal, took off his outer garment, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” What is it that Jesus did here? Look at Philippians 2:5-11, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, 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. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus took off the outer garment, just like He had already taken off the glory He had with the Father, and put on the clothes of a servant, just like He did not come to be served, but to serve. This is how we wash away the dirt of Egypt. This is what it means to wash one another’s feet. We humble self to seeing others as before self. We look for all opportunities to be the servant of all. In this, both by our lives and by our words, we wash away through the living water – the Holy Spirit – the dirt that has collected upon our brothers’ and sisters’ feet.

This Passover, while we’re washing the hands and thinking about the ritual cleansing that we’re supposed to be performing – even during the meal – let us keep in mind that we’re ultimately supposed to be washing one another’s feet, and not merely our own hands.

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Behold the Lamb

Behold, the Lamb of God
(Note: this teaching is in video form here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIl6Y0MH2wo)

The Passover revolves around one central aspect: a lamb that was slain. The other aspects of the Passover meal are supportive of this one key component. It is entirely about a God who rescued His people from slavery, and how the people of Israel were delivered because the angel of death saw the blood of the lamb and passed over. Where does this concept come from? Why does God call for a lamb instead of a bull, goat, ram, or some other animal?

This starts all the way back in Genesis 22. There is this story of Abraham, where God calls him to sacrifice his son – his only begotten son whom he loves. In this story, Abraham mounts the donkey with his son; they have the firewood, the knife, and all of the proper tools to make the sacrifice. One thing they lack: the sacrifice. Isaac even asks his father, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham then replies, “God will provide the lamb.” As we continue to go through the story, only a few verses later we see Abraham lay his son down on the altar, Isaac goes down willingly, Abraham draws the knife, and just as he is about to plunge it into Isaac…

“Abraham! Abraham!” The angel of the Lord calls out to Abraham to stop him. This man was so attuned and at the disposal of the voice of God that he doesn’t swing his arm anyway. He stops. He calls out, “Here am I!” The angel of the Lord then says, “Do not lay a hand on the boy. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looks up, and sees a ram in caught in a thorn bush.

Don’t go on from there so quickly.

Abraham told Isaac that God would provide the lamb.

God provided a ram. What is happening here? Where is the lamb?

When we progress forward in the story, we find in Exodus 12 that the Israelites are to offer a lamb on their behalf so that the angel of death will pass over their homes and not take their firstborn. It says in Exodus 12:3 that on the tenth month of Nissan each man is to take a lamb for his family. They bring it into their homes. They examine it for four full days. They see whether the lamb has any defect, whether there is any blemish, any spot. Moses says that they are to examine the lambs until the fourteenth day, and at twilight they shall slaughter the lamb. What does that mean?

Here is a little numbers game that we’re playing. The evening was the beginning of the new day. So, we’re seeing that the lamb was supposed to be examined for four days. That puts us at the fourteenth. At twilight on the fourteenth day, we are now officially beginning the fifteenth day – a Sabbath commencing the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Why is this important?

In the book of John, we find the story of Jesus. In the very first chapter we have the testimony of John the Baptizer: The next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” A few verses later we read again: The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

Does it seem like John is trying to get us to understand something? Where was the lamb that Abraham promised? Some would say that it was in the Passover. Yet, we find John picking up the hints from both of these stories to say that just as Abraham gave his only begotten son whom he loved, so too is God the Father giving His only begotten Son in whom He loves. Just as God required the Israelites to offer a lamb that He might pass over them, now God is offering a Lamb that He might purge Israel of her sins.

We keep moving forward in the Gospel of John. We eventually come to chapter 12. The chapter starts by saying, “Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany…” Why is this detail added about “six days before the Passover”? This is the anointing at Bethany, where Jesus says that Mary has prepared Him for burial. Watch what happens in the progression of the story. We keep reading, and we come across verse 12, where it says, “The next day… Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem”. Why is this important? Remember Exodus 12 – for four days the lamb was taken into the home to be examined.

In John 12:21, Greeks had come to the Feast, and they find Philip and ask, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus”. What’s happening? Jesus is being examined by the Greek Jews. In verse 34, the crowd speaks up and says, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man will be lifted up?’ Who is this Son of Man?” They are examining the theology of Jesus. Look at verse 39: “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe on him.” In John 18:19, we find the commencement of Jesus being questioned by the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. What is happening? They are examining Him to see if Jesus has any defect. This is why Jesus says things like, “If I said something wrong, testify as to what is wrong.” Pilate examined Jesus and declared, “I find no basis for a charge against him” (19:6).

In John 19:14, the detail is given: “It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour.” Why is this detail given? This is the fourteenth day. This was the day when you prepare your home, getting rid of all of the leaven in your house. You are going to slaughter the lamb at twilight. We find later in chapter 19 that Jesus gives up his spirit “now” that “it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath”. What does that mean? The next day began the Feast of Unleavened Bread. At this time, the very moment when the lambs were being slaughtered and the Passover was being set up, Jesus dies as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.