JOHN CHAPTER 13
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 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.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
The ABIDE program’s foundation is from the Gospel of John, chapters 13-17. We spend one class every week focusing on this book, specifically Jesus’ last evening with His disciples. The first few weeks were a sort of introduction, building up to chapter 13.
This past Wednesday I had the privilege of following Jesus’ example, and washed the feet of my twelve students, and one staff member, who was also present for class.
I woke up extra early that morning for some time of serious prayer as I anticipated the morning. I knew the session would have the potential to really impact the lives of my girls, so I wanted to approach it prayerfully. All week I have felt strongly that God wants to use this week to transform the lives of the students. Washing their feet was one significant part of that.
I have been a part of foot-washing before, but there is just something more powerful about it here in Uganda than I have ever experienced back in America.
I remember the first time I came to this country, I had a new understanding of this chapter of the New Testament. Here it is hard to avoid dust/dirt. It is everywhere, and often requires daily mopping. Walking inside with shoes on can really cause a disturbance because of this dirt. The majority of the roads are not paved, and most of us walk to the majority of our destinations. Of course, many people typically wear sandals for this walking. All of this leads to dirt covered feet.
I know that in Jesus’ day, it wasn’t too different. Roads were not paved. People walked everywhere. Sandals were typical footwear. Peoples’ feet were covered in dirt.
There is just something about having clean feet that makes a person feel refreshed and comfortable.
So, all of that was to say that I have a new appreciation of the context of the event as Jesus was about to show his disciples the full extent of his love.
But that’s not the only thing that made it powerful for the students to see me take off my jacket, wrap a towel around my waist, fill a basin with water, one-by-one wash their feet, and dry them with the towel that was around me.
You see, this culture has an ever-present respect for older people. Adults are regularly called Aunt, Uncle, Papa, Mama, etc. It is completely normal, and often expected, at meals for an older person in the home to be served by a younger person. On top of that, there is certainly a curious respect, even unnecessary elevation of white people. Many Ugandans have never known a Mzungu in their life, and sometimes we can cause quite the distraction with our mere presence. Typically we are not expected to do any manual labor. After all, the girls can hardly handle allowing me to wash their cups or plates after a meal. Sometimes I have to practically fight them for their dishes!
When they saw me take off my jacket, stand up, and wrap a towel around my waist, as worship music was playing, the girls were instantly confused and curious. When I began filling a basin, one even asked if she could help me. I quietly ignored her request, and brought the warm water to the first person. I didn’t look at their faces, but quietly knelt down and washed their feet. I was praying for them as I went around. The girls were filled with disbelief at what they were seeing before their eyes as they waited for their turn.
After I had finished with everyone, I read John 13:1-17, as written above. Some of the students had already turned there and had been reading on their own. Then I asked them to take a few minutes to write their reactions in their notebooks. Afterwards, each student shared how it impacted them. Each one of the students shared their thoughts/feelings/reactions. It was a humbling experience for all of us. Indeed the Holy Spirit was at work in that sitting room.
I trust it was a morning the students will not quickly forget. May they follow the example of Christ and wash one another’s feet.