"If I Wash Thee Not, Thou
Hast No Part of Me"
(John 13:4) "He (Jesus) riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, what I do thou knowest not now; but thou shall know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head..."
One of the strangest things Jesus did was to take a towel, kneel down, and begin to wash his disciples' feet. Remember, this is the man who called Himself the Son of God! Peter was only a disciple, an ignorant and unlearned Galilean fisherman! He recoiled at the thought of Jesus washing his feet. But Jesus answered Peter:
"Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them".
We understand that Jesus was teaching his disciples the principles of servitude--that to be great in His kingdom, they must become servants of one another. What a revolutionary idea! However, we seem to let the second part go by without paying much attention: Jesus desires to wash OUR feet!
This past week, the Holy Spirit has shed some light into my heart about this subject. It came about as I was writing emails to a couple of dear friends who are going through trials. One has cancer and is beginning chemotherapy and radiation treatment. The other lives in another country, but he has been going through several years of frustration in the ministry. He feels stalemated. Both are dedicated, loving servants of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It has always been hard for me to receive from others--I would much rather be a giver. Jesus taught us that "it is more blessed to give than receive", and I thoroughly agree. My greatest joy is to see someone's face light up when I have been able to give them a gift or help them. There is something about giving of ones' self that imparts to us a life-experience that cannot be forgotten.
On September 11th, we saw men and women tirelessly running about to help others. No one asked their qualifications, or who they were, what background they had. Total strangers, people with bad reputations, the bums, the losers, were united with any and all in a common act of mercy and grace on the victims of that tragedy. Why? What kept them going for hours without sleep? without the slightest thoughts of their own welfare? They had stumbled into the waters of self-sacrifice and become totally immersed in its joy!
I remember reading the letter of a woman who was serving in the Peace Corp down in South America. She found herself in the role of a nurse-midwife to a tribal group in the jungles. And she had to live in a chicken coop! After some time, she became ill and had to return home. Time went by, and she soon married and settled into the life of wife and mother. But she wrote that "though I am very happy and have a wonderful husband, children, and a beautiful home---there was a happiness in that chicken coop that was indescribable!"
How do we understand that? Because of the principle of it being more "blessed to give than to receive." Without this outlet, we become a stagnant pool.
But Jesus had said that unless we receive from Him, we can have no part of Him. In washing the disciples' feet, Peter had voiced his objections to it, only to discover the penalty for refusing. It frightened him so much that he immediately told Jesus he could wash every part of him!
At the very time Jesus washed their feet, the disciples had just been told that one among them would betray Him, that He would lay down His life, and that they too would be hated and persecuted. Not good news.
"...ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world".
In the midst of all their anguish and sorrow, Jesus withdrew into the Garden of Gethsemane and began to pray for his disciples. He began to be sorrowful and very heavy. He was actually WASHING THEIR FEET with sweat like blood! And what did the disciples do during his agony? They fell asleep! They were not ministering to Jesus--Jesus was ministering to them!
Now to my "new-found understanding":
My friends? To the one frustrated in the ministry, his prayer-life had become non-existent. He had labored faithfully, but still his dream and desire for evangelism burned in his heart. Could he continue with a little group of students meeting in his home and be fulfilled?
It was on his 45th birthday that he became very low. He was no longer an eager youth, and he questioned his success in the years since he became a Christian. But that night, he had a dream. The Lord began to wash his feet with an awesome revelation. He saw himself in an airport, about to board a flight, when he was presented with an extremely expensive watch that also had a compass on it. God was saying to him, Always check the compass (the leadership of the Holy Spirit) before you look at what time it is. God called Moses when he was 80. Jesus at age 12 was "about His Father's business" in the temple, yet he returned home to be subject to his parents. His real ministry would come 18 years later.
While we may wonder why Jesus would give this Word to someone who had abandoned their prayer life in frustration and disappointment, Jesus, all-knowing and faithful, washed his feet with an encouraging Word;
"And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry." (Habakkuk 2:2-3)
To the other friend facing long weeks of chemotherapy, radiation, and finally surgery; Jesus got down with his towel at her feet also! As I wrote to her, I knew exactly when that started:
"_______, one thing I have always observed about you is your optimism in any situation. That is the quality I most admire about you, my friend. A sweet smile, a hug, a word of encouragement to others...that is _____. God bless you for your heart of gold!
How I wish I might take this burden and bear it for you, which I would gladly do, Having been through it, I know how faithful is our God. It was never a pleasant experience, sometimes very draining, but there was always that strength that only He can give us to make it through every day. All we can do sometimes is just to wonder how things will work out, but then rest in the assurance they will.
None of us have the slightest clue of the whys, but I am certain that it is never necessary that we understand everything. I have come to the conclusion that all we need to know about life that makes any sense, is summed up in our just being available to wash our Savior's feet-- and that He enjoys the bath. That's enough. So a true servant will just wait patiently and be prepared for His entrance, when He slips off His sandals and gives you another opportunity. But I am also sure He is aware when we are not always physically able to get down on tired knees and do that. That is when He looks at our servant's heart and says..."MY time!"
So count the days ahead as HIS...when He can minister to you in ways you never dreamed of. Just relax and receive that special attention He is giving you these days....for God saw them long before Eden had been planted. And He never rests until the job is over and He says, "Well done!"
Always your sister in Jesus,
Dearest Ones: Yes, God has called us to serve Him. and one another as well. But never forget what Peter said:" Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head."
Our feet get tired after long walking; swollen, hot, and hurting. He knows just where you've been, and how difficult was the journey. He also knows if you will awake tomorrow with more miles to go. But a Comforter is sometimes more than a warm blanket. More often than you think, it is a basin of water and a girded towel waiting for us to come through the door and sit down...
MARY E. ADAMS