The Secret of Forgiveness
(Also In Spanish)
It’s not easy watching Jesus wash these feet.
To see the hands of God massaging the toes of men is, well . . . it’s not right.
The disciples should be washing his feet. Nathanael should pour the water. Andrew should carry the towel. But they don’t. No one does. Rather than serve, they argue over which one is the greatest (Luke 22:24).
What disappointment their words must have brought Jesus.
"I’m the number one apostle."
"No, I’m much more spiritual than you."
"You guys are crazy. I brought more people to hear Jesus than anyone."
As they argue, the basin sits in the corner, untouched. The towel lies on the floor,unused. The servant’s clothing hangs on the wall, unworn. Each disciple sees thesethings. Each disciple knows their purpose. But no one moves, except Jesus. As theybicker, he stands. But he doesn’t speak. He removes his robe and takes the servant’s wrap off of the wall. Taking the pitcher, he pours the water into the basin. He kneels before them with the basin and sponge and begins to wash. The towel that covers his waist is also the towel that dries their feet.
It’s not right.
Isn’t it enough that these hands will be pierced in the morning? Must they scrubgrime tonight? And the disciples . . . do they deserve to have their feet washed? Their affections have waned; their loyalties have wavered.
We want to say . . .
Look at John, Jesus. This is the same John who told you to destroy the city. The same John who demanded that you censure a Christ-follower who wasn’t in your group.Why are you washing his feet?
And James! Skip James. He wanted the seat of honor. He and his brother wanted special treatment. Don’t give it to him. Give him the towel. Let him wash his own feet. Let him learn a lesson.
And while you are at it, Jesus, you might as well skip Philip. He told you there wasn’t enough food to feed the large crowd. You tested him, and he flunked. You gave him the chance, and he blew it.
And Peter? Sure, these are the feet that walked on water, but they’re also the feelthat thrashed about in the deep. He didn’t believe you. Sure he confessed you as theChrist, but he’s also the one who told you that you didn’t have to die. He doesn’t deserve to have his feet washed.
None of them do. When you were about to be stoned in Nazareth, did they come to your defense? When the Pharisees took up rocks to kill you, did they volunteer to takeyour place? You know what they have done.
And what’s more, you know what they are about to do!
You can already hear them snoring in the garden. They say they’ll stay awake, but they won’t. You’ll sweat blood; they’ll saw logs. You can hear them sneaking away from the soldiers. They make promises tonight. They’ll make tracks tomorrow. Look around the table, Jesus. Out of the twelve, how many will stand with you in Pilate’s court? How many will share with you the Roman whip? And when you fall under the weight of the cross, which disciple will be close enough to spring to your side and carry your burden? None of them will. Not one. A stranger will be called because no disciple will be near.
Don’t wash their feet, Jesus. Tell them to wash yours.
That’s what we want to say. Why? Because of the injustice? Because we don’t want to see our King behaving as a servant? God on his hands and knees, his hair hanging around his face? Do we object because we don’t want to see God washing feet?
Or do we object because we don’t want to do the same?
Stop and think for a minute. Don’t we have some people like the disciples in ourworld?
Double-tongued promise-breakers. Fair-weather friends. What they said and what they did are two different things. Oh, maybe they didn’t leave you alone at the cross, but maybe they left you alone with the bills . . .
Or your question.
Or your illness.
Or maybe you were just left at the altar,
Or in the cold,
Holding the bag.
Logic says: "Put up your fists."
Jesus says: "Fill up the basin."
Logic says: "Bloody his nose."
Jesus says: "Wash his feet."
Logic says: "She doesn’t deserve it."
Jesus says: "You’re right, but you don’t, either.
I don’t understand how God can be so kind to us, but he is. He kneels before us, takes our feet in his hands, and washes them. Please understand that in washing thedisciples’ feet, Jesus is washing ours. You and I are in this story. We are at the table.That’s us being cleansed, not from our dirt, but from our sins. And the cleansing is not just a gesture; it is a necessity. Listen to what Jesus said:
"If I don’t wash your feet, you are not one of my people" (John 13:8).
Jesus did not say, "if you don’t wash your feet." Why not? Because we cannot cleanse our own filth. We cannot remove our own sin. Our feet must be in his hands. Don’t miss the meaning here. To place our feet in the basin of Jesus is to place the filthiest parts of our lives into his hands. In the ancient East, people’s feet were caked with mud and dirt. The servant of the feast saw to it that the feet were cleaned. Jesus isassuming the role of the servant. He will wash the grimiest part of your life.
If you let him. The water of the Servant comes only when we confess that we aredirty. Only when we confess that we are caked with filth, that we have walked forbidden trails and followed the wrong paths.
We tend to be proud like Peter and resist. "I’m not that dirty, Jesus. Just sprinkle a few drops on me and I’ll be fine."
What a lie! "If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I John 1:8).
We will never be cleansed until we confess we are dirty. We will never be pure until we admit we are filthy. And we will never be able to wash the feet of those who have hurt us until we allow Jesus, the one we have hurt, to wash ours.
You see, that is the secret of forgiveness. You will never forgive anyone more than God has already forgiven you. Only by letting him wash your feet can you havestrength to wash those of another.
Still hard to imagine? Is it still hard to consider the thought of forgiving the one who hurt you?
If so, go one more time to the room. Watch Jesus as he goes from disciple todisciple. Can you see him? Can you hear the water splash? Can you hear him shuffle on the floor to the next person? Good. Keep that image.
John 13:12 says, "when he had finished washing their feet . . ."
Please note, he finished washing their feet. That means he left no one out. Why is that important? Because that also means he washed the feet of Judas. Jesus washedthe feet of his betrayer. He gave his traitor equal attention. In just a few hours Judas’s feet would guide the Roman guard to Jesus. But at this moment they are caressed by Christ.
That’s not to say it was easy for Jesus.
That’s not to say it is easy for you.
That is to say that God will never call you to do what he hasn’t already done.
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