Jesus: The Lowliest Servant

Hello everyone. We’re continuing going through the gospel of John and looking for clues to the Trinity and the self-understanding of Christ. Tonight, we’re going to be in John 13. I won’t be reading the passage tonight as it is somewhat lengthy and it’s a story that we should all know, that is, Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.

In that culture, washing feet was the lowliest of tasks that could be done, and yet an important one. In an age without tennis shoes, a person’s feet would often be quite dirty by the time they arrived at the house of their guest and so in order to avoid getting the floor dirty and for some sake of hygiene, they would wash feet. For those of us who do not understand OT purity laws, keep this idea in mind. While you may not follow purity laws, if you have carpet, would you want someone with dirty feet and not wearing proper footwear to be walking on your carpet?

Thus, Jesus knows that his time is almost nigh and he knows that Judas is going to betray him. He gets up then and takes off his outer garment and wraps it around himself and then proceeds to go and wash the feet of his disciples. It was when he comes to Peter that he faces some opposition.

Peter will not let Christ do such a lowly job and Christ says that if he does not wash Peter’s feet, Peter has no part in him. Peter needed to learn to submit his pride and be prepared to learn what servitude really meant. It was beyond class distinctions of the time. If Peter did not allow Jesus to wash his feet, then he would be in the same position as the Pharisees and thinking that he was above the world of the lowly, the world that Jesus would be calling them to.

Of course, Peter does eventually consent and allows Jesus to wash his feet. Jesus then asks them if they understand what he has just done for them. He is their Lord and teacher. They do rightfully recognize that. If he, being so much greater than he, will wash their feet, ought they not to wash one another’s feet?

Now a question arises. We have Communion or the Eucharist on a regular basis in church. Why? Because Jesus told us to. Why don’t we have foot-washing ceremonies as well?

There would be nothing wrong with that if we so desired. However, when Jesus instituted Communion, he did so with specific signs and those were the signs to be used just as a lamb was to be what was used at Passover.

Jesus is not doing the same thing here. In our culture, we would take this to mean “There should be no task that a Christian is above doing in the service of another.” The Christian should be one who lives a life of service regardless if its footwashing or something else.

What does this tell us about Jesus? It tells us a point that function is not tied up with ontology, that is, one’s being. Now in some cases, I think it is. I think men are to function as men and because they are men, they cannot give birth, for instance. There are some things women can do that men cannot. I like the way Peter Kreeft puts it. Men are superior to women at being men. Women are superior to men at being women.

Why bring this up? Because many anti-Trinitarian errors fall here where they look at function and derive an ontology from that. If that is always the case, then this passage would prove that Jesus is lower than his disciples, when we know he isn’t. Jesus, however, being greater than all, gives us an example, an example that is far more beautiful when one sees him as he really is.

Are we going to follow it?

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