"Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
Some time ago, I was looking at the web site of some missionaries in China. The picture here (below) was highlighted on the Home page. The obvious emotion in the man's face made me think he had possibly lost a loved one, or was facing execution or some other terrible occurrence in his life. However, I have to tell you that when I read the caption below the picture, I broke down and wept. With their permission, I have copied both this picture and the caption which states:
Showing love can have a profound affect on people. Like this man - we had just washed his feet and he was overwhelmed by it. You see, nobody had ever cared about these poor country people.
That type of emotion is something you and I will never know living here in comfort and ease. The best we can hope for is a green pickle feeling when we get the autograph of someone popular. I say that because it's true. There is no such emotion in Western society - a feeling of such total gratitude for a simple act of mercy.
Well, anyway it's the truth. That is - until you've read and grasped this passage of Holy Scripture:
It was just before the Passover Feast. 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. The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."
"No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet."
Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."
"Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"
Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. "You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:1-17
Well, that's it. Here's the God we serve. When I read this passage and tried to describe it to my mother one day, I couldn't finish. As I review the act in my mind, it's so overpowering that tears will stream down my face. How could the Creator of all things disrobe and wash the feet of these fisherman and tax collectors? Now think about it. Who are you and what have you done with your life except break God's laws? And yet, each one of us was, in spirit, sitting there that evening, because the next day he died for us.
...the punishment that brought us peace was upon him... Isaiah 53:5
You see, what he did for these 12 was a parable of what he did for you and I. Jesus said, A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. The Greek word for bath is louo, but for wash it's nipto. Clearly two different actions were indicated. The bath symbolizes our justification through faith in Christ...we are clean - we have been cleansed by the blood of the sinless Lamb of God. The washing signifies the on-going sanctification of the believer as we confess our numerous (and frequent) faults after salvation. Therefore what Christ - God in sandals - did that night, he did for you. Sometimes I lie in bed and ask "Why...why do you have any interest in me at all, God?" I'm entirely overwhelmed. And yet, even kings have asked the same question:
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8:3, 4 (King David)
Because Christ did this, how much more should we act in a like manner? Ultimately, our judgment at the Bema Seat will, at least partly, be based on this.
Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:42-45
In fact, the most exalted of all Christ's rewards at this Heavenly banquet will probably go to the least likely figures: The greatest among you will be your servant. Matthew 23:11
The husband and wife who sent me the picture of the man asked that I not give their names in any commentary. There could be two reasons for this: 1) They are in a country where they could be executed for their witness. 2) They are not seeking the notoriety of this world. Either way I hope these unnamed will be in your prayers as you reflect on their part in Christ's Kingdom. They are fulfilling God's wishes as they go about their lives:
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
This brings me to the second part of this commentary. If you read your bible even infrequently, you should have wondered about this seeming contradiction in the Gospel accounts of Holy Scripture:
Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. " John 20:17
Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Matthew 28:9
Both accounts occur on Resurrection morning, and yet in one account there is physical contact and in the other there is a warning against it. There is no contradiction. This goes right back to the prior eve and the statement:
A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. John 13:10
Throughout the Old Testament and the Gospels, we see the custom of washing one's feet. Even into the epistles, this is mentioned:
No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. 1Timothy 5:10
To focus on the question at hand though, we must focus on these accounts from Genesis:
He said, "If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way-now that you have come to your servant." Genesis 18:3-5
The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. "My lords," he said, "please turn aside to your servant's house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning." Genesis 19:1, 2
Both of these accounts concerned the angels, first at Abraham's tent and then in Sodom. In the first account, it includes a theophany of the LORD himself, who accompanied the angels. Clearly all were unstained by sin and yet in both circumstances they washed their feet. Their feet had trod on the earth and were unclean and yet they remained clean. In the account in John, the Risen Christ - our Savior - warned Mary not to hold on to him. We can speculate that she probably was going to give him a big hug in sheer joy at finding him alive! However, she was unclean for a rather unusual reason:
"Whoever touches the dead body of anyone will be unclean for seven days. Numbers 19:11
When Christ was crucified, she was there in the tomb, and therefore was defiled - even though he had never sinned, he bore our sins at the cross and carried them away into the grave:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
When the two women met him later that morning in the account in Matthew, he knew they would only touch his feet, this was acceptable even though they were in the tomb because his feet were exempt from this prohibition - the practice going back to Abraham and confirmed by Christ at the last supper.
As an interesting insert we read in Numbers that there was a conflict which arose because some Israelites had become unclean by touching a dead body. Even though God's law indicated that if someone touched a dead body they would be ceremonially unclean, these people wanted to celebrate the Passover. In Numbers 9:10 it says: "Tell the Israelites: 'When any of you or your descendants are unclean because of a dead body or are away on a journey, they may still celebrate the LORD's Passover.
It's interesting that even though Christ died at the Passover which made them unclean, He was also their Passover Lamb which cleansed them!
For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. 1 Corinthians 5:7
Can anything be more marvelous than the ways of our God - mysterious and glorious at the same time!
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I've been negligent to indicate that some of the information on this page was obtained from: http://www.yfiles.com/ascension.html.
All nature photos from my friend at Photo Laboratory and Gallery by Suzuki.
To see the web site of the missionaries: click on the photo of the man crying.