The Non-Miracle Miracle
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
When Jesus washed the disciples= feet, no rules of nature were suspended or over-ridden. It was a non-miracle.
However, the event is so remarkable and awe-inspiring that it is as marvelous as a miracle. We=ll examine this non-miracle miracle from three angles.
John 13:2 (Holman) Now, by the time of supper, the Devil had already put it into the heart of Judas, Simon Iscariot=s son, to betray Him.
This foot-washing was, first, a miracle of love. Atlas carried the world on his shoulders. Christ carried an ungrateful sinful world on His heart.
Judas was present at the Last Supper. Jesus washed his feet, though Judas had totally yielded to Satan. The devil seeks to find ways of access to our hearts and to mingle his thoughts with our thoughts. We sometimes struggle with determining which are which.
There was no doubt in Judas= case. For Judas to betray Jesus, without reason or provocation, was an act of such enmity toward God that only Satan himself could have forged it.
Nevertheless, Christ loved Judas and wanted to cleanse his heart. Though Satan was reigning in the traitor=s heart, God was pleading at his feet. Our Master washed the feet that would soon lead soldiers to arrest Him.
John 13:3-4 Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into His hands, that He had come from God, and that He was going back to God. So He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself.
This foot-washing was, second, a miracle of humility. The meal was ready to be served, but before they could eat, the lowest in rank among them was to wash the others= feet. This presented a problem; they had been arguing over who was the greatest among them (Luke 22:24).
None wanted to show lowliness. No one volunteered. But they could not eat until the foot-washing was done, for only then would they be ceremonially clean. The embarrassment of this situation is comparable to when we eat with others and they begin to partake before a blessing is offered.
Jesus surveyed the situation and took control. He would assume the servant=s role and wash feet.
It was time to teach the disciples a lesson in the value of humility. Judas had already fallen into Satan=s snare. The Devil was aiming at Peter and the rest of them (Luke 22:31).
Christ had to help His disciples. The wolf had seized one; the Shepherd knew He needed to shelter the rest by teaching them the importance of humility in spiritual success.
Their argument about who was the greatest among them would have fit Satan=s desires perfectly. Pride could destroy them quickly. They had to be taught the critical role of humility.
Jesus was repeatedly teaching, AHe that humbleth himself shall be exalted.@ He taught it by word, as in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican; He taught it by demonstration, as when He set a little child in the midst; He taught it by deed, as here.
He laid aside His garments (plural), the loose outer coverings. Jesus disrobed to a loin cloth, as a slave would do.
He then girded Himself with a towel, which was essentially a slave=s apron. It could be wrapped around the servant, and was long enough for the free end to be used for drying.
The room was dead silent until Jesus approached Peter. Everyone was stunned at what they were seeing. Some 70 years later, John remembered each minute detail. His words were the writings of an astonished eye witness.
Angels would have been honored to cast kingly robes about Jesus= shoulders, but for us He disrobed Himself. He who holds the world in His hand took a towel and wiped the disciples= feet.
John 13:5 Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples= feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him.
This miracle of love and humility was, third, a miracle of illustration. This whole scene was a parable in action. It taught the need for not only outward cleanliness and humility, but also for inward cleansing provided by the servant role of Jesus.
Jesus washed feet to illustrate the cleansing power of His death. It was not the area of skin Jesus washed that mattered.
The issue was acceptance of Jesus= lowly service in our behalf. The real pollution we need washed off is our self-centered pride.
Judas received the outward sign, but was indifferent, unbelieving, and lost. He reminds us no external ceremony will suffice. The cleansing must be spiritual, inward.
There is no place in Christ=s fellowship for those not cleansed by Jesus= atoning death. This is His most important work for people.
God=s best service for us is cleaning. Cleaning is always dirty work for the cleaner. God could not clean us by lectures, scoldings, or sentimentality. He had to enter our filth and lift us from it by taking the dirt on Himself.
This foot-washing pictured in microcosm the purpose of Christ=s incarnation. He laid aside the robes and glories of Heaven to come minister to people. His washing the disciples= feet pictured what Jesus has always done, still does, and ever shall do. He serves believers in condescending love.