Mike Rowe made a name for himself by introducing us to dirty jobs: chimney sweeps, garbage pit technicians, and avian vomitologists to name just a few. In the process, Rowe lifted up the value of blue-collar jobs and praised those who work with their hands.
One job did not make his show, but there was a time it might have. When we go back to the first century, the lowest of jobs was that of foot washer. Being a servant was low enough, but the lowest of the servants got the assignment of washing feet. Feet back them were not wrapped in a nice cotton sock inside an expensive athletic show. Nope. They were exposed to the elements and all the nasty stuff that accumulated on the road.
And someone needed to wash all that gunk off.
One of the most familiar stories about Jesus was the occasion He took this task on Himself: He washed the feet of twelve men. Twenty-four feet. One hundred and twenty toes. The aspect of this story that I think is lost on us today is just how lowly and humbling this task was. Some might even say it was humiliating. But Jesus did it—and He didn’t hesitate.
What catches my attention is what John wrote right before this.
“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 outer clothing, took a towel, and tied it around himself. Next, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around him” (John 13:3-5).
Don’t skim past the first part. It’s significant and it explains why Jesus could do something that others thought was demeaning.
“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.”
- Jesus knew He had come from God.
- Jesus knew He was returning to God.
Jesus knew His past and He knew his future. He knew both His past and His future were settled with God the Father. God was with Him and had placed all things in His hands. And because of that, it didn’t matter what He did in the present. Jesus could do the most humiliating act, but He knew it wouldn’t affect His relationship with the Father. And it didn’t matter what others thought of His actions; He was secure in the Father. Nothing would change His relationship with the Father.
Therefore, Jesus picked up a towel and cleaned the gunk out of Peter’s toes.
That opening statement about Jesus gives me confidence. I, too, know where I’m going because of my relationship with Jesus. I also know my past, and I know that I have been saved by God’s grace. Nothing can change that. I’m deeply loved. No matter what I do—no matter what others think about me—none of that changes my future or my standing in the eyes of God.
Let me put it another way:
Faith. I can look to the past, to what Christ has done for me. I am secure in Him.
Hope. I can look to the future, confident in what Christ has in store for me in eternity.
Love. My faith and hope are secure, so I can love in the present. I can act with total unconditional love—even doing the most humbling of tasks—because no matter what others think or do, my faith and hope are secure.
I am free to love.
Daily I try to rest in the confidence that truth gives me. I want that truth to keep me serving and loving, no matter how humbling the experience may be.
The future can look uncertain. Christians are increasingly falling out of favor with society. The attitude of non-believers used to be ambivalence or apathy, but more and more people are becoming antagonistic. Some blame Christians for all the problems in our country. It is becoming easier or more acceptable to hate Christians.
And that’s just in America. We’ve got it good compared to our brothers and sisters in places like China and North Korea.
But in one sense, all these outside factors don’t matter. Because no matter what, l am secure in Christ. Therefore, I can respond to any situation with love and grace—and the heart of a servant.
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