It’s easy for us to imagine Jesus looking down from Heaven upon us. As Christians, we believe that He ascended through the clouds to take His place at the right hand of the Father on high. “Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool …” so we read in 2 Chronicles 2:6 and Acts 7:29.
Pictures of Him as high and lifted up, of Him as the Lord of Glory, are sources of joy, comfort, and encouragement. We should think of Him as the Alpha and Omega, as the beginning and the end, as the God who is always in control, the Lord over all things, working things together for good.
But I believe there are other ways to see Him.
When we read John 13, I think the case can be made that we can see Christ when we look down, too.
The scene is an upper room in Jerusalem. It is Passover time, and Jesus has determined to eat this sacred meal with His closest followers, the Apostles, the men He chose to draw close to Him. These men heard Him and witnessed the wonders He did in healings and deliverances and even resurrections. They had come to know Jesus as the One with eternal words; they had come to know Him as the Christ, the Son of the Living God (see John 6:68-69).
Served by the Son
The meal came and went, and then Jesus showed them another facet of the new and living way in which He had called them to walk. He rose from the table, laid aside His clothes, and took up a towel. He poured water into a basin and stooped to their feet.
They were about to be served – by Jesus, the very Lamb of God whom they were told to behold.
All of the men’s feet were washed by Him. Even upon Judas’ feet, did Jesus pour the water. This traitor who soon would go out into the night to betray Him to the chief religious leaders of the city would do the devil’s work with clean toes.
The Cross awaited Jesus. Before the next evening arrived, the hands that held the basin and the towel would be pierced through.The hands that held the basin and the towel would be pierced through. Click To Tweet
Peter took offense at this work of the Master. “You shall never wash my feet” he told the Lord in a fit of prideful humility. “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me,” Jesus replied.
Jesus had told them that they weren’t ready to understand what He was doing. He did, however, promise that one day such understanding would come to them.
A Pattern for Fellowship
When He finished, Jesus addressed the group and told them to do for each other what He had just done from them. “If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14).
This is a big instruction – too big for us to comprehend. And it’s way beyond our limited human capacity really. We are full of competitive tendencies even as we walk with the Lord. Consider this: the disciples themselves had argued about who was the greatest among them as they made their way to this Passover table.
Jesus provided the key for our follow through. As we let Him wash us, we are empowered to wash others. It is the Spirit’s work of love, joy, peace, and gentleness.
Several years ago, I was invited to a foot-washing service being offered at a local church. I was told that the exercise of washing another’s feet would “do wonders for my humility.” I passed on the offer. Those words bothered me.
I cannot augment my humility through actions that I deem humiliating. Any such self-performance runs contrary to the truth that Christ is the Author and Finisher of my faith. The work of the Holy Spirit guides me into all truth and moves me in the way of giving grace and loving mercy and forgiving others.
Psalm 84 contains this line: “Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of your anointed” (verse 9). We are His anointed ones, and I am saying that we should sometimes consider this: that He looks upon us while He’s at our feet. Underneath are His everlasting arms, and He takes a tender towel and makes us clean. Let us learn to see Jesus there to wipe away the grime from our walk.
It is only in allowing Him to restore our souls that we are led in the paths of righteousness. We are led in those paths for His name’s sake (Psalm 23).