“Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8b, NIV).
Although Jesus was looking into Peter’s eyes as He spoke this truth, His words were nourishment offered to everyone in the room. In that moment, little did the disciples know how desperately they needed what He was extending to them. Painfully soon, they would find out.
“Unless I wash you…” He uttered in deeply loving tones, even as He firmly continued His set task of doing exactly that. As He tenderly held each grungy foot, washing away grime and sweat, He looked up meaningfully into each face. The Lord of all eternity knelt before His friends, and He cleansed them.
His posture announced to them the ultimate act of service that He was about to undertake. Ahead of time, He was releasing its provision to them. Ahead of time, He was profoundly assuring them of His undying love in the face of their desertion. Ahead of time, He was pouring out forgiveness to their hearts, the washing away of their sins.
Those same feet He had just cleansed, that very night would turn and flee from His side. Feet freshly washed would carry these men far away from the One who had purified them. As they reached their wretched hiding places in the darkness, did they immediately remember? Did they relive the powerful touch of His hands massaging the street-dirt off of their skin? Did they hear His voice again in their hearts, “Unless I wash you…”?
I have no doubt that they did. And they knew: before they had abandoned Him, He had already forgiven them. He had already given them His cleansing. He had already knelt before them as their Suffering Servant. He had provided for what was to come. They may not have grasped the full significance in that moment, but the time would come… when that night at the table with Jesus would wash over them with beautiful, ineffable, astounding understanding. Jesus had washed them. He had fully, wholly, overwhelmingly provided them “part with Him.”
You and I can closely relate to these men. Our own feet sometimes carry us, too, down paths far away from the Master. If today you are struggling with guilt, Jesus is kneeling before you now. He takes your soiled feet in His gentle hands with indescribable love. He looks up into your face with exquisite kindness and He begins to wash the stains away…