Spiritual Foot Washing
By Gary Amirault
Jesus washed the disciples' feet. The lesson most of us Christians have learned from this through reading the account in John, from a Sunday school lesson, a sermon or some other form of teaching is that we are called to be servants to one another. "The greatest among you will be your servant." (Matt. 23:11) While that lesson is certainly true, I think there is something deeper here as well. Just as there are layers of rock in the earth, so, too, are there often layers of truth in the Bible.
As the reader may recall in this story (John 13:3-17), Peter didn't want Jesus to wash his feet. He felt he should be washing Jesus' feet. Peter was actually embarrassed to be in a position where his Lord and teacher was playing the role of a servant to him. Those of you who have ever participated in a ceremonial foot washing service can probably testify along with me that our egos have a difficult time with this. During Jesus' time, the lowest slave would wash the feet of those higher up the chain. (John 13:3-17) In those days, feet got much dirtier than they generally do today, especially in the Western world. Most of the roads were simply dirt which meant that one would often stir up dust that stuck to the feet or walk in mud. If one had shoes, they were open-toed sandals. Animal dung was everywhere. Feet really got dirty in those days. Though people did not bathe every day, the feet were another matter. Jesus told Peter that if he didn't let him wash his feet, he would have "no part in Him." What was Jesus saying?
When a person is "born from above" they become a part of the body of Christ. Jesus prayed that even as He and the Father were one, so too, we should become one with Jesus and He with us. (John 17:20, 21) We become the feet of Jesus here on earth while He is seated in heavenly places. Just as our feet get dirty simply by walking the earth, so too, our minds get dirty from interacting with a world full of sin, death and darkness. One cannot walk down a major street in a typical large city without being bombarded with psychologically sophisticated advertisements filled with enticements designed to seduce our eyes, flesh and pride. View just about any media and you will be bombarded with images aimed at emptying your wallet. Drive down a highway. Notice the billboards. What are the half-clad Amazon sized images trying to do to you? Sell you alcohol, sell you cigarettes, appeal to your lower senses to indulge in things that will ensnare you into the realm of the flesh and pride. Our conscience is constantly being violated, especially in the Western world. Millions go into some religion hoping to escape from the filth only to be seduced by more subtle deceptions. We are going to get deceived. We are going to make mistakes. We need to come to Jesus to wash us each day so that our conscience gets cleaned and our communication with Jesus and His body, that is, believers, stays clear and clean. A hardened heart or defiled conscience will hinder our ability to walk in the purity of the Holy Spirit.
In the Old Testament, we know that ".only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to CLEAR THE CONSCIENCE of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings-- external regulations applying until the time of the new order." (Heb. 9:7-10)
We are in the new order of things. Our failure as Christians often comes through self-condemnation when our conscience becomes defiled through sin or what we have been told is sin. Rather than bringing it into the open and having it removed, we often hide it in our sub conscience. Just like cancer or any other disease, denying that it exists won't make it go away. So, too, with sin or false guilt. If our conscience stands condemned, through actual sin or false self-condemnation, our walk with the Lord is hindered.
When we think of denial, we usually think of alcoholics and drug addicts. But denial is a problem that plagues the whole world including most Christians. Denying our problems, burying them, is not the solution - bringing them to the Light is. Jesus alone is that light that removes our sins, applies His forgiveness and gives us strength to continue to be a bold witness to His Name. We must allow Him to wash us daily even as we walk this earth. Otherwise, the "Accuser of the brethren" will constantly bombard our minds with condemnation which will force us to walk away from being the Light or enter a state of denial.
"This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds. Then he adds: Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to CLEANSE US FROM A GUILTY CONSCIENCE and having our bodies washed with pure water." (Heb. 10:16-22)
God is for us. He is not against us. He wants us to have the victory.
Yes, Jesus washed the disciples' feet as an example of becoming the lowest of servants. But equally important is the understanding that we must maintain a living relationship with the Head of the Body Who is Jesus Christ. Blood in the Bible represents life. The blood in a natural body provides food to it and also takes away poisons. It contains ingredients that aid in protecting the body from foreign elements like germs, viruses, etc. The blood is also designed to bring healing agents to wounds to close them through clotting, add new cells to restore that area and send white cells to fight off infections. What our natural blood is to our natural body, the blood of Christ is to His Spiritual Body. Just as cells in the natural body need constant contact with the blood, so too, spiritually, we need to be in constant contact with the blood of Christ which is His Life. "Life is in the blood." (Lev. 17:11; John 6:53, 54) This is how we can keep our conscience clean. His Spirit in us can search the deep places of our hearts and expose to us things that are harmful to us, to the rest of the body and to our witness to the world. We must allow Him to wash our feet which represent, spiritually speaking, our walk in this dirty world.
Jesus also said we should wash each other's feet. "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." (James 5:16) It is very humbling to wash another's feet; it is also humbling to have your own feet washed. Equally, it is humbling to confess our sins to one another. There is something positive about being accountable to one another and to encourage and support one another, especially if one is weak in certain areas of their lives. A phone call of encouragement from someone who cares can sometimes prevent someone from doing something they otherwise would do to their own destruction. Drug and alcohol treatment programs often contain a buddy support system to help keep people straight. But confess your sins to someone you can truly trust. Trust is a big problem in Christianity. Gossip, backbiting, betrayal is rampant in the church. Be careful. Let the Holy Spirit show you who to confide in.
One of the biggest problems all human beings have is the propensity to lie. We are so good at it that often we come to the place where we actually believe our own lies. When we give Jesus, the Truth, room in our lives, He is able to expose them so we can see them for what they are and also see the destruction those lies cause us and others. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth sent by Jesus is by far the best counselor, the best psychiatrist, the best life coach, the best confidant, the best mentor, the best friend one could have.
Summarizing: Stay in close communion with the Life of Christ -- let Him counsel you through His Holy Spirit -- let the "Law of the Spirit of the LIFE in Christ Jesus" be your confessor - your touchstone. The true "law" in a Christian life is a Living Word, not a dead letter from a Bible translation or the Mosaic Law. It is a personal word for each individual right where they are in their walk. The Holy Spirit sent by Jesus Christ treats each person individually taking into consideration their past. God seeks intimacy with you. You can trust Him with your most intimate things - your very life. Those things we try to hide from others, God and even ourselves are the very things which hinder that precious life of Christ from flowing through and out of our lives to bless others. He is not against us. He is not the Accuser. He is on our side against the Accuser. Allow the Spirit of the LIFE in Christ Jesus to cleanse you daily of all things that would keep you in bondage to fear, doubt and unbelief. Whoever the Son sets free, is free indeed. (John 8:36)
At the beginning of my walk, I had an encounter with God which was terrifying. I was engaged in a very real talk with our heavenly Father. During that conversation, it became apparent experientially that He knew what I was going to say before I could form my thoughts into words. It freaked me out! What was the point in speaking or even thinking when who you were talking to knew you better than you knew yourself?! I was completely naked before Him. Totally exposed.and was not destroyed. After this conversation, He revealed to me that He was for me, not against me. He was not like our enemies and so-called friends and family who often use our "dirt" against us. His purpose in bringing up "dirt" is to get rid of it so that we may have a rich and abundant life in and through Him. He is truly for you even though much of the theology preached in many churches teaches otherwise. Go to Him - and let Him wash HIS feet -- which you are.