“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 affectionate tones, even as He determinately set about 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 communicated to them the ultimate act of service He was about to undertake. Ahead of time, He was releasing its provision to them. Ahead of time, He was earnestly assuring them of His undying love for them in the face of their desertion. Ahead of time, He was pouring forgiveness into their hearts, the washing away of their sins.
The feet He had just cleansed would imminently turn and flee from His side. That very night, those freshly washed feet would carry these men far away from the One who had purified them. As they reached their wretched hiding places soon thereafter amidst the oppressive shadows, 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 speaking lovingly, firmly in their hearts, “Unless I wash you…”?
I have no doubt that they did. And the first rays of understanding began to reach through their personal darkness: before they had abandoned Him, He had already wholeheartedly forgiven them. He had already imparted to them His unconditional cleansing. He had already knelt before them as their Suffering Servant. He had already made complete provision for everything that was to follow.
Reeling from their failure, they may not have yet fully grasped the significance of what Jesus had done. However, the time would come when memories of that night at the table with Him would flood their hearts with beautiful, ineffable, astounding revelation. He had washed them. He had wholly, passionately, overwhelmingly given them “part with Him.”
You and I can closely relate to these friends of Jesus. Our own feet sometimes carry us, too, down paths far away from the Master. We know what it is to ache with the pain of having turned our backs on Him. But our beautiful Savior has made provision for our failure.
If today you are struggling with guilt, He 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. Gazing deep into your soul, He begins to wash the stains away…