Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel that he had tied around his waist. John 5:13 At first Peter wanted nothing to do with his Lord and a basin of water. He resisted and told Jesus, “You will never wash my [dirty] feet, to which Jesus replied, “If I don’t wash you, you don’t belong to me.” John 13:7-8
To be completely honest, I have to admit that this conversation between Jesus and Peter doesn’t sound all that bad at first. In fact, it reads like a conversation I might have had with Jesus. Imagine coming to the table sorely in need of a pedicure. Embarrassed? A resounding “yes!” from this corner. The same kind of feelings might run through me if I suddenly found myself in need of emergency medical attention and remembering too late that all my decent underwear were back home in the drawer. . .
In this story, more than likely I would have been as unprepared as Peter, for this was no ordinary tea party. Let me explain. For months, a group of women had been meeting for Bible study and prayer. Over time they become close enough to comfortably share with one another the deep concerns Jesus laid on their hearts. One cannot be in such a group for long without feeling the Holy Spirit‘s nudging to “get real” and these women responded and bonded in their love for Jesus and each other. But as what often happens in life, the group meetings succumbed to hectic schedules and the women disappear back into the rat race of living.
But when you have had something so good and so meaningful, how do you let it go? There were heart longings ~ and one participant took it upon herself to extend an invitation to the other women to come to her home for tea. Sidebar: if I had been the one extending an invitation for tea in my relatively unexplored territory of hospitality, it would likely have just been tea. You know what I mean? You take a mug from the cabinet, heat water in the microwave, toss in a tea bag and you’re done. There might be some thought as to what to serve with it, but nah . . . just tea and a friend for starters . . . but never mind the sidebar. I’d be painting the wrong picture in your head.
So back to the real story. Each friend received a personal, hand written invitation to come over for tea. Perhaps the hostess baked a loaf of pumpkin dessert bread or stopped by the local deli for something delectable, I don’t know. At least she was prepared to serve tea. Since I know few details, I will embellish with a sprinkle of ideas from my imagination to keep it interesting. Let’s say she covered the table with a crisp linen tablecloth and washed and dried the delicate china teacups and plates saved for special occasions until they sparkled, and maybe she made a pitcher of lemonade for those who preferred their beverage chilled.
The doorbell chimes. The women have all arrived. The first lady steps over the threshold with her hands wrapped around an exquisite vase of fresh blooms for the table. Another comes in bearing a lovely tray of warm-out-of-the-oven scones just itching to be filled with strawberry jam from a crystal bowl, a third comes in carrying a basin, a towel and lavender bath salts. Huh? Somehow this doesn’t fit the picture I have in my mind of a tea party.
Oh, but it does. In the same spirit as the Lord girded Himself so many years ago, this dear lady knelt before each friend and gently washed her feet with aromatic warm water and patted them dry with a soft towel all the while humming a favorite song of personal worship giving glory to God. How humbling. How tender. How so like Jesus!
From a Bible commentary, I gleaned these insights as to what likely happened on Passover night in Jesus’ day. According to Jewish custom, washing the feet of the head of the household was one of the duties of a foreign slave, but never expected of a Jewish slave. However, it was a service a wife owed her husband, and children their father. Since there was no servant present on the night of the Last Supper, one of the disciples should have undertaken the menial task, but none volunteered. Jesus hoped His practical demonstration would give the disciples a picture lesson which would remain with them longer than words alone.
In the symbolic act Jesus was performing, only in submission could Peter have part with Christ. Furthermore, Peter’s independent spirit and haughty attitude were inconsistent with the character of those who enjoy sweet spiritual fellowship with their Lord in this life and who entertain the hope of enjoying eternal fellowship with Him in the world to come. Therefore, in the act of washing someone’s feet; both parties are in the perfect position to receive a blessing.
“Simon Peter said to Him, Lord, [wash] not only my feet, but my hands and my head too! ” John 13:9
Let’s not glance over these words lightly and thus miss the spiritual significance. There is something special about the experience of having someone kneel before you to wash your feet . . . and further, if the washing is symbolically allowed to reach your heart . . . the heart gets bathed too and thus you have been renewed by the Holy Spirit and a little bit of heaven lingers on earth, just for you.
I would loved to have joined these ladies in their sweet fellowship.No doubt they had an unseen Guest present. No doubt His sweet Spirit permeated the hearts of all who gathered and remained with them long after the last sip of tea.