Just in case you didn’t catch it before, John 13–17 is all during the Last Supper. It certainly does beat Moses’ Book of Deuteronomy in length. These chapters do, however, give us a deep insight into Jesus as his final hours are approaching (The Jewish day started at Sunset, so the “day” of the Last Supper was the “day” of Crucifixion).
The washing of the feet has long been a symbol of Jesus’ humility (which it was), intimacy, and vulnerability. He put aside his seniority to serve his disciples. Yet, this emphasis also misses other important pieces of the story.
Feet were dirty (no closed shoes, no socks, no pavement). They were the most visibly dirty part of the human body. Dirty feet could well imply status in society.
Therefore, when Jesus washes their feet and says that they are entirely clean (which we all know that isn’t the case), there is something else going on. A tidbit might be “The Way”. A person “walks” in the light. If one walks in the light, one walks on dirty ground (i.e., the world). One will again need to be clean.
The parable of the vine, interestingly, provides a different point of view. Almost tossed into this little parable is the declaration, “…you are already clean…” They are already clean, and yet they need to stay connected to the true vine…Jesus.
In both cases, they are clean from a ritualistic standpoint (important from a Jewish perspective) and still continue to need refreshment. Whether the refreshment is regularly having the dirt of the world washed off or gaining the nutrients and nourishment from the true vine, Jesus is the source.
Whether it is the feet being cleaned, or the branches being nourished, it is Jesus doing it.
Confession (washing) is essential. Absolution (declaration of being clean) is done by Jesus. The entirety of the process, however, is in Jesus’ will and command.
While we can do our faithful best to produce fruit, we can only be open to receiving the nutrients of Jesus.
Lord Jesus, help us to view you to be, believe you to be, and act as if you really are the Lord of our lives. Amen.
1) What are you doing regularly to be washed?
2) What do you think would be nourishment?
3) In what way(s) is it important that we are declared clean, and yet still require regular washing? How does that apply to nourishment?