By Dr. Abayomi Sanusi, —-
The month of August has been our month of God’s kindness. We have had testimonies, protection, journey mercies, victories, good health as well as the blessings of provision, to mention a few.
Preparatory for this exhortation, in prayers and meditation, I could not move beyond the image of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. After grappling with that for over a week I succumbed accepting we had to explore the concept and custom of feet washing.I pray that God uses this to speak to us, and bless us both individually and as a congregation, long after you have heard or read these words.
This message is therefore titled prayerfully thus ‘ May you show God kindness and wash the brethren’s feet’.
In exploring the custom of feet washing, we can find from the scriptures, seven separate contexts and meanings to assist our understanding of the importance of Jesus blessing the disciples in that unexpected way, at that vulnerable stage in history of humanity.
CONTEXT OF SYMBOLIC DOMINATION, EXPLOITATION; OR ASSERTION OF AUTHORITY OR RENDERING OF LEGITIMATE OBEISANCE
This is a dramatic form of ‘feet washing’. It is akin to paying of a fine, or the state of subjection to authority. Or subjection to colonisation, or rule by a foreign power and authority. Perhaps a severe form is illustrated by the vanquished serving the victor. There are various examples in history. Put bluntly this is the context where one person rules over another. An example of this kind of ‘feet washing’ is illustrated in 2 Kings 14.12-14.
12 And Judah was defeated by Israel, and every man fled to his home. 13 And Jehoash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Jehoash, son of Ahaziah, at Beth- shemesh, and came to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem for four hundred cubits, from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate. 14 And he seized all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king’s house, also hostages, and he returned to Samaria (2 Kings 14:12-14 ESV)
There had been a failed attempt to avoid war. Two kings had to met eye-to-eye, and did battle. The one that lost had no choice but be subject to his conqueror. I pray your enemies will wash your feet in Jesus Name.
CONTEXT OF HOSPITALITY, COURTESY,RELAXATION AND RETIREMENT FROM HARD WORK
This is the most prevalent form of feet washing. Here are three instances, and a case of rejection of the same:
(1) Abraham expressed the intention to serve unknown travellers hospitality; and provided them accommodation for rest, relaxation and comfort from their travelling. Although God had communed with Abraham for years, and he still had enormous personal problems in his life and household; he ran after these strangers to offer them his free and unsolicited service. He tried to persuade them to accept ‘a little water be fetched, so they could wash heir feet’. Genesis 18. The seed of hospitality he sowed opened the door to the fulfillment of God’s promise for his life.
(2) Lot managed to persuade strangers to stay overnight in his house. They turned out to be angels- who in return eventually saved his life and that of his family. Before stopping and relaxing from their journey they were begged to wash their feet in retirement from the day’s toil. Genesis 19:2
(3)Abraham’s servant travelled with ten camels to Nahor in Mesopotamia in search of a wife for Isaac. Laban, Rebekah’s brother provided water for washing of their feet, at the start of hospitality of hosting them. Gen 24:32
(4) A committed worker and faithful soldier, Uriah declined the opportunity to ‘wash his feet’ whilst his colleagues continued in hard work.
2 Samuel 11:8-9 And David said to Uriah, Go down to thy house, and wash thy feet. And Uriah departed out of the king’s house, and there followed him a mess of meat from the king. 9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house
CONTEXT OF OBEDIENCE AND ATONEMENT RITUAL
Symbolic Humility and Cleanliness before Aaron and his sons entered God’s tabernacle to minister before the Lord and ask for the forgiveness of the sins of the congregation. Symbolic purification by washing of hands and feet! He consequences of not washing was death. Exodus 30:19-21
CONTEXT OF VOLUNTARY HUMILITY OR SERVITUDE
The washing of another person’s feet are akin to a physical statement of lowly status, inferiority or humility. It was compared to a task fit for servants and slaves.
In 1 Samuel 25:41 Abigail Nabal’s wife sent a response to David ‘Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord’.
CONTEXT OF VICTORIOUS RELEASE FROM STRUGGLES AND STRIFE
Another context of ‘feet washing’ relates to the the cessation of struggles, fighting and violence resulting from God’s judgement on the unrighteous. This gives His children the chance to peacefully focus on worshiping him without distraction.
We get a snapshot of the illustration of this in Psalms 58:10-11: The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.
CONTEXT OF EMOTIONAL RESPONSE TO REPENTANCE, FORGIVENESS AND SALVATION
This context is a fine illustration of supplication and demonstration of faith. The sinner woman, with dishonourable reputation and shameful past took advantage of the compassion and forgiveness of our Lord Jesus in Luke 7:36-50. She demonstrated understanding, willingness for genuine repentance, humility and the determination to give up something unto the Lord, for a fresh start. In the words of Jesus Christ, ‘her sins were many, she loved much’. All of those sins were forgiven and she was set free to live in peace.
(There is a peace that comes from knowing you have given your best to God. There is a peace that comes from knowing God is on your side. I pray your will have full knowledge and enjoyment of that peace in the name of Jesus)
CONTEXT OF THE LORD SERVING HIS DISCIPLES, FOLLOWERS, CHILDREN, AND FRIENDS
Congregational reading of John 13:6-10
In order to wash his disciples’ feet, Jesus had to kneel down or bend over. This is most conveniently done from a level lower than the owner of the foot being washed. Just as he was about to do on the cross of Calvary, where he was humiliated and humbled whilst receiving unjust insults, undeserved shame, excruciating pain and eventually a criminal’s execution: Jesus brought himself to a level much lower than his legitimate one. Just so that the will of God, the job of His father, the task immediately at hand, be successfully completed.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you:continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
9 I pray for them:I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. 10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. 11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
What do these mean for us?
The Lord has been very kind to us in this church, in this country, and in this congregation. We owe everything to Him. He has blessed us with physical and spiritual increase that money cannot pay for. From ear tingling testimonies, health, peace, protection to promotion and the promise that He is with us alway (as we go ye into all the world and preach His gospel, making disciples of men).
I am persuaded that we are yet to see the extent of kindness, power, and love God wants to demonstrate freely among us. I pray we will give Him the opportunity to do everything He is determined to do through us.
Jesus not only tarried in the place of prayer for those he loved. He not only fasted and prayed for them. He not only taught them patiently and refuse to give up on them. He also humbled himself and physically washed their feet.
What can you do to spiritually or physically help your parish? Could you assist a brother overcome the enemy of their physical or spiritual progress? Can you help a sister with hospitality and a respite from their hardship, hard labour and difficulties? Does someone need your help in personal study, spiritual growth and follow up? Can you tarry in the place of prayer for someone? Can you help someone get to, and beg God for forgiveness at the feet of Jesus? Will you obey God’s commandment and wash you brother or sister’s feet in love? Could you show them the sort of kindness God can enable you? John 15:8-12.
Could you spend a few extra minutes everyday evangelising among the newest university students? Your effort might lead someone to Jesus. Or keep someone from joining groups and influences that could conspire to divert them away from God. Your effort could be the reason they attend another church, and become a child of God. Your effort might be the difference to them achieving their destiny, or failing to find it!
Jesus assured the disciples they may not know the full explanation or significance of that act of kindness; but it will all be for the kingdom of God.
Sermon delivered on August 31st, 2014