“Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world
and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world,
he now showed them the full extent of his love.” – John 13:1
What was the greatest sign of Jesus’ love for us?
Naturally we would think of the cross. It was there that Jesus took on our sins as His own and died so we would not have to. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). It is the greatest gift that can ever be given. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
However, in John 13:1 the Bible tells us that washing the disciples feet was the sign revealing the full extent of Jesus’ love. How is this possible? The New Testament gives little record of the account, especially in comparison to the cross.
What is so great about the feet washing?
This line of reasoning has caught me off guard, as I also would have thought the cross would show the full extent. However, I have thought of some potential reasons. I invite you to leave comments below on your thoughts.
1. The number of times to show His love.
The cross was a one-time event. Never again does Jesus have to go to the cross for our sins. Washing our feet is a regular occurrence. When Peter encouraged Jesus to wash his whole body, Jesus hinted that we would have to get regular foot washings.
While there is no question that the cross was a more significant event, the feet washings are regular events where Jesus choses to take the form of a servant to minister to us.
The closest example I can thing that is similar is a mother in child-birth. Birth is extremely painful and hard on the mother, but for the love of the child she joyfully looks forward to the outcome. However this same mom will later in life fight with her child about the cleanliness of their room. There is no question of the mother’s love at childbirth, but will she fight to maintain that love on the everyday circumstances of life?
2. The proximity to the objects of His love.
At the cross Jesus was virtually abandoned. All of His disciples except John ran away. The crowds that followed Him around were absent save a few women. The cross was a necessary step to bring us to God that He joyfully endured for the hope of the eternal relationship with us.
Feet washing is immensely personal. You have to get close. You will get touched. Jesus takes time to bow at your feet to minister to you. You are humbled by seeing how much He values you. He doesn’t see you as unworthy of His affection as Peter thought. Instead, Jesus is declaring you as worthy, wonderful, valuable to Him.
3. The personal encounter to the objects of His love.
The cross was an event that created space for all to freely come before God. Washing feet is unique for each individual. Just as each foot is unique, the amount of dirt that needs to come off is different. Jesus knelt at the feet of each disciple taking time with each one. He desires to interact with each of us the same way.
What story are we to share along with the gospel?
Jesus tells us just as He has washed our feet, we should wash each other’s feet. Out of what we have been given, we serve others. Also before Jesus death, Jesus had His feet washed (Mark 14:1-9). Jesus celebrates this and says what she has done should be told wherever the gospel is preached.
There is something special to God to washing feet. I encourage you to dwell on this. Sit in prayer and have Jesus wash your feet. So often we are good at ministering to others or living for God, yet we have forgotten to have Jesus minister to us. Take off your shoes, and ask God to wash your feet.
Jesus wants to comfort you. Strengthen you. Give you hope for the days to come. He wants personal time with you where He has your complete attention. He cares specifically for you.
Kevin Shorter is the founder of this prayer-coach site and have served for several years in ministry and churches teaching on a variety of Biblical topics. Go to the contact page to request him to speak at your conferences and seminars.