The Bible is full of pictures concerning Jesus and his work on the cross, starting from God’s promise of someone to come stomp on the serpent’s head even while getting his heel struck in the process, to Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, to the tabernacle sacrifices. And this is not even including all the prophesies made by Isaiah, and the ones made by David in the Psalms.
And now, just before the cross, Jesus gave two more pictures. One, of course, is communion which we’ll get to in a few blogs. But the other is right here in this passage. And because of the beauty of the picture Jesus painted, I would be remiss in not talking about it.
It says that Jesus got up from the meal, he took off his outer garments, and wrapped a towel around his waist. What was this a picture of? The apostle Paul tells us in Philippians chapter 2.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:5-7)
Jesus, though he was God, made himself nothing. The NASB puts it this way, “He emptied himself.” He took off the outer garments of his glory and became one of us. But not only did he become one of us, he wrapped a towel around his waist, and in so doing, took the very nature of a servant.
Paul goes on to say,
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! (8)
Just as Jesus humbled himself and washed the feet of his disciples, so did he humble himself, going to the cross, that our sins might be washed away by his blood.
That’s why when Peter objected to Jesus washing his feet, Jesus replied,
Unless I wash you, you have no part with me. (John 13:8)
In other words, “Peter, you’re messing with my picture here. Just as I am washing your feet, so will I need to wash away your sins. And unless you allow me to wash away your sins, you will have no part with me. You cannot have a relationship with me.”
After Jesus finished washing their feet, he then put his clothes back on and returned to his place at the head of the table. And in the same way, Paul tells us,
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
Now Jesus asks us the same thing that he asked his disciples.
Do you understand what I have done for you? (John 13:12)
Do you? Do you understand all that Jesus gave up and sacrificed for you so that your sins might be forgiven? If you do, then Jesus tells you,
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...Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (13-15, 17)
Jesus was the ultimate servant. And he calls us to be like him. Are you?