John 13:6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” (ESV)
In the past, it was not uncommon that I would have a Maundy Thursday service which included me washing folk’s feet. The footwashing section was strictly optional, because I found some people thought it was a bit too personal. Yet, that is precisely the point.
During biblical times, with everyone wearing sandals and walking everywhere in dirty, dusty conditions, the cleaning of a person’s feet after a journey was an act of hospitality. Usually, the host provided water and a basin to allow the guest to do it themselves. In richer households, a slave performed this task. Christ did this, I believe, to speak to the greater work only he could perform on the cross. Our belief in who Jesus is and what he has done for us justifies us before the Father, but we can only be washed by the blood of the Lamb which he sheds willingly for us. He did the work to make us righteous before God. The filth of our sin which we pick up in our travels through the world, voluntarily and otherwise, needs a washing we simply cannot personally accomplish. This is why Jesus told Peter that if he didn’t wash him, he would have no part of him. We accept – in joyous faith – that Christ’s blood is the only cleansing agent capable of washing away our sins.
Thus, Peter’s visceral grasp of what Christ was telling him. Peter knew only Jesus could provide the purification which would sanctify him wholly. In his sin, Peter wanted the complete body wash. He personally understood his immense need for what Jesus offered. He would understand even more, after he later denied His Savior three times. In this time of worrisome contagion, we should be crying out to Christ to cleanse us from our unrighteousness and the judgment it deserves.
We need to sit ashamed before the cross, before we claim the blessed promise of the empty tomb. Our sin’s stain is permanent and eternally condeming outside of Christ’s work for us. Think about this as we pray and fast this Good Friday for our Triune God’s mercies to wash away the fear and death of this pandemic.
Trusting in His blood,